For the first time ever, the average gas price across the United States has exceeded $5 per gallon. But, the cost for a gallon of fuel in California is more than a dollar higher than the second most expensive state.
California drivers are paying more than $6.25 per gallon and state lawmakers have formed a committee to investigate what they believe to be price gouging by the oil industry.
“We have put ourselves in a situation because of our addiction to the gas-powered engine,” said Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon. “Yet that is no excuse for the actions of those who pin California drivers down with a foot on our necks and a hand in our pockets.”
State Republicans have called for legislators to suspend the gas tax, which in California adds an extra $1.30 per gallon. Assemblyman James Gallagher poked fun at his Democratic colleagues on Twitter when he posted a graphic illustrating how all of the state’s self-imposed gas taxes make it the highest in the nation.
Easy to read investigative report into how government is adding $1.30 to each gallon of gas in CA. pic.twitter.com/IfcIopKDjM
— James Gallagher (@J_GallagherAD3) June 20, 2022
State Democrats fear suspending the gas tax would benefit oil companies, whom state regulators have accused of artificially inflating prices, according to ABC News. Oil company executives pushed back shortly after the announcement of the investigation.
“We agree that Californians are paying too much for fuel in this state, and the legislature, Governor and regulators must take responsibility and act now to change the dangerous mix of bans, mandates and bad energy policy they are pushing on our state or it could only get worse,” Catherine Reheis-Boyd, president and CEO of Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA), wrote in a statement. “Tone deaf to the struggles of low and middle income Californians, they continue to pursue the Advanced Clean Cars II rulemaking, a costly and unrealistic plan to ban gas powered cars and trucks in California starting in 2026.
“Add in the de-facto production ban in place as the Newsom Administration refuses to issue permits to help increase the energy supply for California and another increase the gas tax on July 1, and there are plenty of opportunities for the legislature to really help consumers, rather than to hold political events,” she added.
High gas prices are not new to Californians. In 2019, Governor Gavin Newsom asked the state attorney general to investigate why prices were so high after a report suggested oil companies were overcharging customers.
“There is no identifiable evidence to justify these premium prices,” Newsom wrote in a letter to Attorney General Xavier Becerra. “If oil companies are engaging in false advertising or price fixing, then legal action should be taken to protect the public.”
Following an investigation, the California Energy Commission said it did not “have any evidence that gasoline retailers fixed prices or engaged in false advertising.”