Tom Steyer Doesn’t Understand Gas Prices

The Sacramento Bee headline read, “Tom Steyer wants ‘answers’ for California gas price spike.” California lawmakers had just started to hold hearings investigating the recent rise in gas prices, which were below $2 in some areas a few months ago but have since risen to over $3. The billionaire climate activist said he wanted to make sure Californians get a “fair shake” at the pump. This is rich coming from Steyer, who supports policies that drive up energy costs for Americans.

If Tom Steyer wants answers for California’s high gas prices, he should start by shaking a fist at himself. As Bee opinion writer Dan Walters explains, taxes, mandates, and regulations that Steyer supports are primarily responsible for California’s high gas prices, while the recent spike can be attributed to a temporary supply disruption caused by a refinery fire. From Mr. Walters’ piece:

Gas prices are higher in California than almost anywhere else in the nation, albeit markedly lower than they were a year ago. And there are reasons for that disparity.

California’s fuel taxes are among the highest in the nation, the state Air Resources Board just imposed cap-and-trade fees on fuel, and the state requires unique, smog-fighting formulations.

The state government’s leading expert on the fuel market, the Energy Commission’s Gordon Schremp, told the Senate committee last month that when one refinery was put out of commission by an explosion in February and another by a labor dispute, supplies tightened sharply, forcing refiners to acquire fuel elsewhere that could be re-blended to meet California emissions standards.

The supply squeeze eased after a few weeks, and prices started to decline again.

Most of the remaining price disparity vis-à-vis other states, perhaps 75 cents a gallon, stems from California tax and formulation decrees.

Other than trying to raise his profile for political purposes, it’s difficult to understand why Steyer is complaining.

He is a vociferous advocate of reducing greenhouse gases and logically should want high prices to discourage driving and cut emissions. In fact, one price element – perhaps a dime a gallon – is the cap-and-trade fee imposed in the name of climate change.

Steyer also advocates imposing a tax on oil extraction in California that would push gas prices even higher.

When it comes to gas prices, irrationality reigns.

California’s gas problems are a political problem—one created in no small part by Steyer, who poured millions of dollars into a ballot measure mandating a low carbon fuel standard. That mandate, along with the state’s high taxes and other measures, makes California’s gasoline among the most expensive in the nation. If anyone is preventing Californians from getting a “fair shake” at the pump, it’s Tom Steyer.

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