Updated September 21, 2023 - 5:37 pm
When looking to fill up her gasoline tank on Thursday, Maggie Rodriguez went to two stations to find the better price.
The single mother who works as a server initially decided to fill up at a Terrible Herbst station at the intersection of South Decatur Boulevard and Meadows Lane in Las Vegas but stopped when she saw the price of $5.39 a gallon. She then opted for the Conoco station across the street that advertised at $4.82.
“I hate the gas prices now,” Rodriguez said. “I’ll go the extra mile to get a little cheaper gas.”
Rodriguez is just one of many motorists dealing with higher gasoline prices in Nevada, which experts attribute to a mix of regional and global pressures that are raising prices in the fall — usually a time when gas prices drop.
And rise they have.
Gas prices in the Las Vegas Valley averaged $5.16 a gallon on Thursday, according to AAA, a 17 percent jump since August when prices were an average of $4.40. Prices jumped 9 percent since last week, when the average gallon of gas cost $4.72, according to AAA.
And valley gas prices are 33 percent higher than the national average of $3.87, according to AAA.
The average cost of gasoline in Nevada is currently $5.06 a gallon, per AAA, a 14 percent increase from last month, when the average price was $4.45.
Why do gas prices vary from station to station?
It was a smart move for Rodriguez to take an extra step to lower the cost of filling up, according to Patrick De Haan, head petroleum analyst for GasBuddy.com.
“I would always urge motorists to shop around before they fill their tank, simply because there’s a huge variety in prices. Depending on where in your route you fill up, you can see some prices as low as $4.37, and others at $5.42,” he said.
John Treanor, Nevada spokesperson for AAA, said there can be a big difference in gas prices from station to station, even on the same street, because they can set their own prices.
“Gas stations can set prices however they want to,” he said. “A lot goes into that sometimes. When you see a decrease in gas, you might see a high average somewhere else, or because they bought their fuel at a certain price, they had to sell it at a certain price.”
These increases can squeeze people who drive a lot for work like Raymond Hernandez, a construction worker who was filling up Thursday at the Rebel station at the intersection of East Lake Mead Boulevard and North Las Vegas Boulevard.
“It’s hard to put gas in since I drive from end to end of the valley almost every day,” he said.
Hernandez also estimated he uses at least $20 worth of gas a day and about $150 a week.
Why are gas prices higher now?
A decrease in supply from oil refineries in Southern California, which are seeing unexpected outages on top of routine fall maintenance, is at least one of the reasons gasoline prices are higher than normal, De Haan said.
“This is not just a Las Vegas or Southern Nevada thing,” he said. “This is also Southern California, Arizona. Anyone that’s supplied by those refineries is generally seeing a price impact.”
De Haan said it’s unclear what exact issues are causing the outages since information on the operations of refineries is “tightly guarded.” But he said extreme heat over the summer and an active hurricane season on both the East and West Coasts have caused problems for refineries over the past few months.
Global forces also are in play, with Saudia Arabia and Russia agreeing earlier this month to cut oil production — equating to about 1.3 million barrels of crude oil — through the end of the year, The Associated Press reported. That is driving up the price of crude oil, which hit more than $95 a barrel on Thursday.
“When you’re filling up your tank, about 50 percent of what you’re paying — a little bit north of 50 percent — is that crude oil number,” Treanor said. “So nothing impacts gas quite like the price of a barrel of crude oil.”
Both De Haan and Treanor encouraged motorists to research gas prices on GasBuddy or AAA before heading out and to sign up for rewards programs that offer discounts at the pump.
Dax Wolford, a psychiatrist, wasn’t worried about gas prices when he decided to fill his vehicle’s tank at the Terrible Herbst gas station at the intersection of West Charleston Boulevard and Rancho Drive on Thursday afternoon. The price of gas at the station was higher than others nearby.
He said he gets gas at Terrible’s because of its rewards program in which he can earn points and free products.
De Haan said there’s hope gas prices could start to drop in the next week or two as California refineries restore full operations.
But Treanor contends big drops in gas prices will only come when the price of crude oil declines.
“As long as a barrel of crude oil is hovering around $90 a barrel, the seasonal fall that we usually have just isn’t happening,” Treanor said.