California's record high gas prices have had a spillover effect in Southern Oregon, pushing up pump prices to more than $4 a gallon locally.

California's record high gas prices have had a spillover effect in Southern Oregon, pushing up pump prices to more than $4 a gallon locally.

Tom Bell, a 43-year-old Medford father, said high gas prices this year have forced him to send his kids to their Portland cross-country meets and baseball games by school bus rather than driving them up himself.

"We can't watch our kids play sports in Portland anymore," Bell said. "We're missing out on their childhood."

AAA's Fuel Gauge Report calculates that the average price of a gallon of regular in the Medford-Ashland area hit $4.16 Monday, down a penny from Sunday but still higher than $4.14 a week ago.

That average still is lower than the all-time local record high of $4.38, set on July 11, 2008.

Marie Dodds, spokeswoman for AAA in Oregon and Idaho, said recent refinery problems in California have led to record high gas prices there, jumping 50 cents a gallon in the first week of October. The Los Angeles-Long Beach area hit an all-time high of $4.71 on Oct. 11, according to the Fuel Gauge Report.

Most of the gas heading into Oregon comes from refineries in Washington state, but Southern Oregon gets some of its gas from California, Dodds said.

Two refineries in California have been shut down this year — in Richmond because of a fire and in Los Angeles because of a power outage — and a gas pipeline also was taken out of service.

Since Oregon doesn't refine any of its own gas, it's feeling the impact from California's troubles, Dodds said

"It definitely is a spillover effect," she said.

The good news is prices are heading down. California averaged $4.67 for a gallon of regular a week ago, but on Monday was down to $4.61, Dodd said.

Nationwide, the price of regular dropped from 3.82 to 3.79 during the same week. The price of crude oil also dropped recently, from a high of $100 a barrel to $91 on Monday.

Predicting how low prices will drop this winter is difficult, Dodds said, but she thought prices wouldn't go much lower than $3.70 to $3.80 a gallon.

Dodds said gas prices have been more volatile this year with storms, tight supplies, tensions in the Middle East and refinery problems.

"Consumers haven't gotten much of a break," she said.

At local gas stations, motorists have curtailed their driving but say they have little choice but to "fill 'er up."

"I'm going to drive no matter what," said Rob Shields, a 66-year-old Medford resident who took his dog, Jar Jar Binks, to the Union 76 station on Riverside Avenue in Medford.

Shields said he spent too many years getting his 1948 Plymouth P15 back on the road to leave it in the garage. Besides, he said he averages 28 mpg cruising his car around town.

He said high gas prices are being manipulated by the oil companies and the government.

"We could put a stop to this," he said. "You can't tell me the gas companies aren't lining their pockets."

Albino Mendoza's Hummer only gets 11 to 14 mpg, but he said he's got no choice but to drive it to get around town.

High gas prices have definitely taken their toll on Mendoza's family.

"That hurt us a bit," he said.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476, or email