Gas prices are seen at a gas station in Los Angeles on Sept. 28, 2023. California gas prices are nearing $7 per gallon in some locations as oil prices surge toward $100 a barrel. (Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images)
California Gov. Gavin Newsom has called for an early end to summer-blend fuel again this year as prices soar at the gas pump.
In response to rising prices, the governor wrote a letter
on Sept. 28 to state agencies directing them to allow oil companies to switch to the lower-cost winter fuel early. The state’s fuel suppliers are usually required to continue stocking the more eco-friendly but pricier summer blend until Oct. 31.
“Oil companies are ripping you off, and we’re going to get to the bottom of it,” Mr. Newsom said in a statement also on Sept. 28. “Big Oil can’t hide anymore.”
In response to the governor’s request, the California Air Resources Board (CARB), the state’s regulatory agency overseeing fuels, confirmed it would allow the early transition.
“CARB is allowing the manufacture, importation, distribution, and sale of winter-blend gasoline,” the agency said in a statement
Sept. 18. “The gasoline market in California is currently experiencing very high prices for reasons that the California Energy Commission is examining, which may include an unusual spot market transaction, refinery maintenance and undersupply, and global crude prices.”
In the letter, Mr. Newsom also directed the state’s newly created Petroleum Market Oversight Division to investigate whether to impose a penalty on oil companies as a result of possible price gouging during this year’s market surge.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks in the rotunda of the California State Capitol in Sacramento on March 28, 2023. (Courtesy of the Office of Governor Gavin Newsom)
The agency, led by Tai Milder, is also expected to take action on some refinery maintenance issues to lower prices.
“Governor Newsom’s call for an early transition to winter-blend will quickly increase supplies of gasoline and restore much-needed liquidity to the gasoline spot market at a time when Californians are paying inflated prices at the pump,” Mr. Milder said in a statement provided to The Epoch Times. “Pursuant to the Governor’s direction, the division is also committed to working expeditiously with stakeholders and experts on spot market reforms to protect consumers from the effects of market-distorting behavior that we have recently observed and bring rationality back to the California gasoline markets.”
Mr. Milder issued an update
to the governor last week, reporting that market fluctuations, supply shortages, and refinery issues were behind the recent price spikes.
September Fuel Prices Skyrocket—Again
September’s gas prices in the Golden State are skyrocketing once again, nearly mirroring a fuel crisis seen during the same month last year.
Last year’s crisis drew the same response from Mr. Newsom, who allowed an early end to summer-blend fuel, and it prompted him to create the special state oversight agency to place caps on oil companies’ profits.
California’s gas prices rose again on Sept. 29 to an average of $6.08, according to the Automobile Club of Southern California. Last year’s average at this same time was $6.12.
The average price in the Los Angeles and Long Beach area reached nearly $6.32 a gallon on Sept. 29—$2.50 more than the national average of $3.80, according to the automobile club.
This fall’s spike is similar to what California drivers experienced a year ago, when refineries didn’t produce enough of the “summer blend” of gasoline to sell through the end of October as required by state air quality regulations.
“We are continuing to see price increases due to higher oil prices and refinery maintenance that has reduced gasoline production, along with the continuing overall reduced capacity in California to produce gasoline as refineries switch to green fuel production,” Auto Club Spokesperson Doug Shupe said in a statement Sept. 28
An oil refinery displays an American flag in Wilmington, Calif., on Sept. 21, 2022. (Allison Dinner/Getty Images)
GOP Asks For State Gas Tax Suspension
Meanwhile, Republican Assembly members asked
the governor, also on Sept. 28, to call a special session of the Legislature to temporarily suspend the state’s gas tax.
Californians pay the highest tax on gas in the nation—$0.58 per gallon.
Consumers also pay fees and federal excise tax, bringing extra fees per gallon to $1.31, according to the Western States Petroleum Association, the oldest petroleum trade association in the United States.
“Gas prices are once again soaring, and Californians are paying $2 more per gallon than the rest of the country,” the GOP members wrote in a letter to Mr. Newsom. “Drivers are spending more than $100 each month just on gas. This elevated energy cost cuts into families’ already strained budgets.”
Assemblyman Joe Patterson (R-Rocklin) also commented about the issue on X, formerly known as Twitter: “The fact Gov. Newsom can ask for a ‘winter blend’ of gasoline that will result in prices dropping immediately tells you everything you need to know: your high gas prices are controlled by policies made by Democrats. He has the power to reduce them and won’t do so until pressured.”