It’s no secret that drivers across the country have been reeling with record-setting gas prices which, according to the American Automobile Association, surpassed $4 per gallon in all 50 states for the first time ever this month. But no one is experiencing pain at the pump as much as rural Californians right now.
This week, the five counties with the most expensive fuel in the state were Mono, Humboldt, Del Norte, Trinity and Napa, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Mono, a county with less than 14,500 residents, had the priciest gas in the U.S., according to AAA. The average cost for a gallon of regular gasoline in Mono was $7.04 on Wednesday, almost a dollar more than the Golden State’s average of $6.07.
This is even more cringe-inducing when you consider that AAA put the national average at $4.59 on Friday.
“We’re hoping to get some relief,” Mono County Supervisor Bob Gardner told the Times. He noted that many of his constituents regularly commute 60 to 120 miles roundtrip to get to work, mainly due to the major housing shortage in the state.
Gardner added that fuel prices “are on everybody’s minds. People think, ‘Geez, is this a permanent thing?’”
To grapple with the high costs, some rural Californians have been filling gas cans when they go to nearby states like Oregon and Nevada where fuel prices are lower. Unfortunately, some have even resorted to stealing fuel from other people’s vehicles, according to the Times.
The higher fuel prices have caused unique challenges for rural Californians who live in areas that are often overwhelmingly spread out, which makes completing daily tasks like going to the supermarket and taking their children to school a pricey endeavor. They also typically have to trek farther than their urban counterparts and they have fewer options for public transportation.
It’s also more expensive for fuel distributors to deliver to remote locations and there is less competition between gas stations, which set their own prices.
“When people are paying $6, $7, $8 a gallon for gasoline and trying to get to work, you quickly get to a point of diminishing returns,” Dee Davis, president and founder of the Center for Rural Strategies, told the Times.
“The reality is rural economies have been struggling a long time,” which has caused people to have to drive farther in order to seek work, he continued. “Traditional industries like farming, timbering and mining have been under intense pressure in a globalized economy … and when we have these unplanned costs, it’s hard on everybody.”
Residents in Humboldt County, where gas prices hit an average of $6.49 on Thursday, have also been trying to cope with the inflation.
“I just see people feeling very discouraged right now,” Barbara McCovey, 58, told the Times. She lives on the remote Yurok Reservation and works as a driver for United Indian Health Services. “It’s getting to the point where people say, ‘I can’t afford to go to work.’ Especially if you have a car that’s not good on fuel economy.”
On Friday, the average price for fuel in Trinity County was $6.32 and in Napa it was $6.31, according to AAA.
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