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$6+ gas coming soon, in Gov. Newsom’s own words, ‘to achieve world leading climate goals’
Correct Dennis Wyatt mug 2022
Dennis Wyatt

Gas slipped down to $4.65 a gallon Monday at a local Costco.

It was the lowest in town. And it’s less than the California average of $5.21 a gallon.

Still, you might view $4.56 as highway robbery.

You might want to calm down and devote some time to stress reduction exercises. That way, you can reduce your chances of a heart attack for the triple whammy that will be bludgeoning your pocketbook in the next few months while you fondly remember gasoline selling for what it is today.

• The California Air Resources Board (CARB) next month is tightening its low carbon fuel standard as part of its greenhouse gas reduction strategy. Experts expect that to translate into 54 cents a gallon this year. It will hit 88 cents a gallon in 2026 and then $1.01 by 2031.

• The state gas tax is going up two cents a gallon on July 1. The automatic adjustment for inflation will bring the overall state gas tax to 60 cents a gallon.

• The California Energy Commission (CEC) in a few months plans to slap a penalty on oil companies for an increase, not in net profits per se, but for jumps in gross margins.

The odds are gas will soar past $6 a gallon and stay there.

The CARB ruling is a non-transparent tax. It is collected on oil refineries and isn’t broken out for the consumer. The state prefers it that way for obvious reasons.

The gas tax hike, in all fairness, is reasonable. The automatic annual adjustment in the gas tax rate reflects increased costs tied to inflation for road construction and maintenance projects the tax is collected to cover.

The CEC “tax” is to punish refineries for taking in more money. It is supposedly to penalize the oil companies for price gouging, even though state commissions formed to look into such allegations have never established that is the case.

Gross margins, of which the law pushed and enacted by Gov. Gavin Newsom and being imposed by the CEC are based on, doesn’t take into account increased costs for things such as oil company workers’ pay.

The CEC board has yet to determine the cap increase gross margins can’t exceed in a given year.

But when it does, the money collected will flow into the state general fund’s “slush fund.”

And guess what the slush fund will be used for? It will help cover part of the state tab for burning through enough cash to turn a record setting $97.5 billion surplus reached during October 2022 into today’s $45 billion deficit.

The gross margin penalty — call it what it is, which is a tax — will simply become part of the cost of doing business for oil companies. That means whatever the state penalizes an oil refinery for will be collapsed into the price of a gallon of gas.

It is why Nevada Gov. Joe Lombardo has asked Newsom to reconsider the “price-gouging” tax. Why, you might ask, does Lombardo care? It’s because Lombardo actually understands the way the real world works and not the alternative reality Sacramento lives in. And since close to 90 percent of the gas sold in Nevada is refined in California, drivers in Nevada will get hit as well.

Newsom’s response is that Gov. Lombardo is drinking Big Oil’s Kool-Aid.

Keep in mind, Newsom’s political sound bite comes after commissions he appointed could find no evidence of price-gouging at the pump, hence his attack on gross margins that don’t factor in the cost of employees.

It’s a shrewd way of looking like you’re doing something to correct an offense you can’t prove while at the same time taking more money from consumers to give you a means of plugging massive deficits generated by inept finance stewardship of tax dollars.

This is all justified, of course, because it is all done in the name of taking on the climate change bogeyman, known as the internal combustion engine.

Yes, gas-powered cars generate greenhouse gases, even if it is just two percent of the mandate total that some experts contend.

As such, a sin tax, if you will, may be justified.

But the charges against gasoline once you remove gas taxes for roads and such are far from all going toward propping up carbon free vehicles.

The climate change charge — or carbon offsets — are going to plant trees in other states and keep money flowing to the high speed money pit connecting Bakersfield with Merced.

Green energy policies require money to implement.

Drivers that can’t afford electric vehicles or those such as farmworkers whose incomes allow them to buy only the less fuel efficient rides in the used car market are disproportionately footing the bill.

It’s Robin Hood in reverse.

Yes, you can’t make climate gains without pain. Even Newsom said as much in an October 2023 press release regarding the pending CARB greenhouse charges on oil refineries as being necessary for California “to achieve world leading climate goals.”

Perhaps those six words should be posted on all gasoline pumps in California so drivers can appreciate how much they are paying for gas.

To be clear, this is not a slam per se on the “taxes” above and beyond the gas tax that is tied to either the front end or back end of every gallon of fuel sold in California.

It is, though, a slam on the 1984 doublespeak that offers anything but transparency as why gasoline is higher in a California than elsewhere.

And to be honest, you shouldn’t have a problem with higher costs attributed to reformulated gas and such because it has more than halved the air pollution spewed by cars in the last 30 plus years even as more and more vehicles crowd California’s roads.

But slapping refineries with a tax to make it look like you’re doing something and then using it to try and backfill the state treasury that you looted is beyond disingenuous. It’s misleading. It’s not transparent. It’s government at its worse.

Enjoy the $4.65 gallon a gas while you can.

—  This column is the opinion of editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinions of The Courier or 209 Multimedia. He may be reached at