Gas prices across the nation are on the rise as oil refineries “prepare to shift to a summer blend of fuels,” meaning no state in country can boost prices lower than $2 per gallon of gas any longer. But, for one state in particular, gas prices are soaring at an exceptionally high rate.
According to GasBuddy, gas prices in California are up more than 20 cents in the last 24 hours for a current average rate of $3.51 per gallon. Last week, the average retail gas prices in the state jumped from $2.98 per gallon on Monday to $3.23 on Friday. California gas prices have surged by 60 cents per gallon of regular unleaded since Jan. 30.
California’s steep gas price increase could be attributed to various causes. The Associated Press reports that a unit of the Exxon Mobil refinery in Torrence, California exploded on Feb. 18. The explosion stopped new production while the state investigates the incident. During the same time period, labor unrest at a Tesoro oil refinery led to a lag in oil production. Combined, the two facilities make up 17% of the state’s crude oil processing capacity.
However, these incidents are not the lone culprits behind California’s unusually high gas prices. The Associated Press points out that California’s fuel mandate has only managed to exaggerate the problems. When California adopted its fuel mandate, regulations for a “specialized blend of fuel that is not used anywhere else in the US” were imposed. The fuel mandate “economically isolated” the state, making impossible for California to “easily or quickly purchase fuel from outside the state in a crisis.”
A few refineries outside of California—those in Canada and Korea— have the ability to produce gasoline that meets strict standards set by the fuel mandate. The problem is, they will not. Simply put, it’s not in their best interests to produce the particular blend of fuel. According to the Associated Press, the process is expensive and would prevent these refineries for making other types of gasoline. Additionally, “the product would have to travel to the market, a process that could take weeks.”
As Shift reported, a fuel mandate like California’s has the rather significant draw back of raising the price of fuel—an increase that impacts everything from heating your home to the cost of groceries and the price you pay at the pump. Jay Inslee wants to copy California’s dubious fuel mandate experiment, which could raise the cost of gas by as much as $1 plus per gallon—that’s according to experts and Inslee’s consultants. Unfortunately, our green governor is actively pursuing implementation of a fuel mandate by executive order this year to fulfill a secret promise he made without any legislative consultation (the Pacific Coast Collaborative agreement) in 2013.
California’s current situation reveals another—rarely discussed, yet fairly obvious—draw back of a fuel mandate: the heavy hand of regulations make it very difficult to recover from unforeseen, yet devastating interruptions to gasoline production on which the state depends. If Inslee bypasses the Legislature imposes his fuel mandate by executive order, he would place Washington State in a similar position.
That’s why it is so important for lawmakers to take preventative measures by placing safeguards against a fuel mandate. Today, the state Senate will bring to the floor a “consumer protection” measure in the transportation package that would prevent Inslee from burdening our state with a fuel mandate by executive order.
State Senate Republicans insisted that a transportation package include a simple safeguard: a provision that would pull funding from transit if the state were to adopt a low carbon fuel standard. The provision states that if the standard were adopted, “all non-bondable revenues — such as fee-based money going toward transit and bike paths — would instead be moved into the main transportation account.”
As could be expected, Inslee and fellow Democrats are not happy with the safeguard. They have labeled the provision a “poison pill.” Inslee and Democrats want to be able to follow in the uncertain, costly path paved by California and Oregon, where disgraced former Gov. John Kitzhaber issued an executive order to continue work on the fuel mandate last year.
The reality is that Senate Republicans have introduced a needed consumer protection provision. It protects hardworking Washington families from the high costs—foreseen and unforeseen—of Jay Inslee’s fuel mandate.