The High Cost Of Driving In California Is No Accident

How about some gas facts?

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In late October, the highest price for gasoline in the country was a “mind-numbing $7.59 a gallon” for regular, $8.50 for premium in Gorda, on California’s central coast.

The average prices for regular, mid-grade, and premium are highest in California, $4.60, $4.78, and $4.90 a gallon, respectively, according to AAA. Prices are rising nationwide, but those numbers are still far in excess of the U.S. average of $3.40 a gallon.

The average gasoline price in Los Angeles had risen for 18 straight days through Oct. 29.

Late October was also when gasoline prices in San Francisco reached an all-time high, passing “the previous record of $4.743 per gallon, set over 3,300 days ago in 2012,” says Gas Buddy.

California shows up as an outlier far out of sync with the rest of the nation in the Gas Buddy price heat map.

Two days before Halloween, “parts of California,” most of them in the northern half, “recorded their highest average gas prices ever,” KTLA reported.

None of this is due to bad luck or unhappy coincidences. Nor can “profiteers” or speculators be blamed for the surge. The high prices are by design. The factors driving prices them are the products of deliberate policymaking:

  • California has the highest motor fuel taxes in the country – 67 cents a gallon, says the Tax Foundation, using American Petroleum Institute data. Second highest are in Illinois, 60 cents a gallon. The national median is about 30 cents a gallon.
  • Due to “big-government energy policies,” California drivers pay a 37% premium for gasoline compared to the national average. Backing off these mandates would have saved drivers $9.6 billion in 2020 over 2019.
  • Carbon cap-and-trade policy adds more than 14 cents a gallon to the cost of gasoline in California.
  • The state’s low carbon fuel standard increases prices 22 to 24 cents per gallon.
  • As requirements of cap-and-trade and the low carbon fuel standard become more demanding, their costs will continue to add up, reaching a range from 89 cents to $2.10 a gallon.

Let’s end with a quiz. Who said: “Somehow, we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe”?

No, it wasn’t a California official. It was Steven Chu, a Berkeley-trained, Nobel-winning physicist who taught at Stanford, and was serving as the Obama White House’s secretary of energy when he made the statement. The words just happen to sound a lot like those a Sacramento lawmaker would string together.

Kerry Jackson is a fellow with the Center for California Reform at the Pacific Research Institute.

This article was originally published by the Pacific Research Institute.


  1. Stan Sexton says

    You don’t need a crystal ball to see the future in California. Inflation and oil supply/refinery problems will drive up gasoline prices to European levels. I’m not a tree hugger but even with 3 Priuses, I leased a Chevy Bolt EV and am glad I don’t have to wait at Costco for gas. My lease is $288 a month and it’s offset by no maintenance costs, no gas and oil costs and the money I save by not driving my Priuses except for long trips. My next jump will be a long-range Tesla. What almost all the public doesn’t understand is that the Bolt and most EVs are fast. In fact, in 57 years of driving, it’s the fastest car I’ve owned from 0-60. And that includes 2 GTOs in the 60’s.I love blowing off so-called performance cars. Full torque from the first rpm. I can smoke the tires easily. And it’s a handful in the rain if you push it. I’ll wave at you at the next stoplight as I pass.

  2. This is we told you so.

    Cars Are Basic, Inc. has been accused of everything from trying to kill people to destroying the earth.

    Two decades ago CAB was started by concerned locals in Santa Barbara, and has slowly grown. When the technology of cleaning the air and significantly reducing carbon in the air, we applauded it. The “anti’s” like Stan ignore the progress. They ignore major impacts of increasing cost of fuel on the working poor, and middle class.

    Stan seems to have missed the fact that the “maintenance” of standard internal combustion engines has gone from quarterly or every 6 months to less then once a year. He missed the fact that with computer control, adjustments and maintenance are notified when necessary.

    It is interesting that with carbon reduction of 25% in north America almost all of it was done without changes to electric autos. The supposed “savings” ignore the increased use of plastics and other lightweight materials, ignore the serious environmental costs of Lithium mining, conversion, and recycling that has yet to hit the market place. CAB wishes him well and would never want him to be in an accident where the battery pack breaks and the fire severely injures or kills drivers.

    Notice he quotes a lease. Must be nice to have a credit rating where he can walk in an sign a lease. Most working poor and lower middle class families cannot afford that luxury.

    The Current Administration has “forced” skyrocketing fuel costs, production costs of any thing depending on oil or gas (give up your cell phone and computers). The costs to national security and freedom of national actions is significant.

    We could go on, but hopefully you get it. S. Calif. air pollution of the worst of 1960’s is gone (100% gone), so the “Anti’s” will continue to change the conversation when they no longer have a case.

    So give a look at ….

  3. Yes Stan. Just hope that there is electricity here in Kaliforniastan to power your electric toy. Since you own ugly Priuses you must be on the solar/wind bandwagon. Apparently you don’t pay attention to Europe, specifically to Germany. Brown outs and highest electricity prices in Europe. Why? Solar/wind and shutting down the nukes. Ya think?

  4. Not to worry, be happy. Everyone can flock to unreliable public transit and bike lanes once all the mass transit systems are built out with infrastructure money siphoned from promised highway ‘infrastructure’ repairs.

    The 405 in Los Angeles and Orange counties and the 101 in San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties can be converted into bike and mass transit corridors fit for electric buses with short driving ranges. The Cal Train right of way between downtown San Jose and downtown San Francisco can be converted into ultra dense, high-rise housing, thereby fulfilling Gav-man’s dream of dense, clustered urban villages.

    Bonus: Wouldn’t it be fitness enhancing to have people ride their bikes up the grade from the San Fernando Valley and through Sepulveda Pass or through Santa Susana Pass from Chatsworth to Simi Valley? We are about to enter a glorious age free of those pesky personal vehicles.

    Second Bonus: We can put the major oil companies out of business and remove millions of high-paying jobs from the labor force.

  5. Do not get all warm and fuzzy with your electric “stuff” just yet! As soon as the “oil spigot” stops spewing its evil stuff there will have to be a grand shift in taxes. They are already complaining that the $.67 per gallon is not enough. That amounts to $.027 per mile at a comparison of 25 mpg. Do you really think for a skinning minute that that is what they will tax per mile?

    Oh and by the way, if you were “bad” or “naughty” this year, you do not have to worry any more about getting a lump of coal. Santa cannot afford or find coal any more!

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