Deflection as an art form: progressives complain about gas prices

Only in California. Progressive policies in California have forced drivers to pay some of the highest gas prices in the nation. Now, a group of liberal legislators want the California attorney general to investigate why this is true.

Let’s recap what the progressives have inflicted on working Californians who are simply trying to get to work and get their kids to school and soccer practice. According to the California Center for Jobs and the Economy, gas prices dropped slightly in December but declined faster in other states. In the United States other than California, the average gas price was $2.26 per gallon. In California, it was $3.40, a premium above the national average of $1.144, a 50.6 percent difference.

California had the second-highest gasoline price among the states behind only Hawaii. Californians paid $1.48 per gallon more than consumers in Missouri, the state with the lowest price. That’s 77 percent more for the same tank of gasoline.

The Center also noted that “California’s fuel regulations and the isolated market created by those regulations continue to push the state’s cost premium up higher — a cost-of-living factor that in particular falls on lower-wage workers as they are forced to commute longer distances in order to find housing they can afford.” Those regulations include California’s unique cap-and-trade law and low-carbon fuel standards, rendering the production of gasoline an expensive and risky enterprise.

While the regulatory costs are embedded in the price at the pump and not transparent to consumers, what we pay in taxes is regrettably very clear. California now has the second-highest gas tax in the nation (39.8 cents per gallon). The effort to roll back a big increase in the gas tax was thwarted by special interests spending tens of millions of dollars on deceptive advertising and also engaging in illegal campaign activities.

Now, Sacramento politicians are feeling the heat from their constituents, who are becoming increasingly aware of how cheap gas is in other parts of the country. Early last week, 19 Democrats sent a letter to Attorney General Xavier Becerra asking him to launch an investigation. Like many progressives in America, these 19 seem to be obsessed with “collusion.” But, as noted by a petroleum industry representative, oil companies on the West Coast have been investigated ad nauseum by several government agencies, which have likewise concluded that California’s high gas prices are the result of high production costs as well as the more traditional market forces of supply and demand.

Assemblyman Mark Levine, one of the 19 perturbed legislators, referred to the “robbery that the oil industry is engaged in from California families.” But even Inspector Clouseau could solve this crime. All Levine and other liberals in the Legislature need do to identify the culprit is to look in the mirror.

One final point. California, like Venezuela, is sitting on an abundance of oil reserves which, in a rational world, would result in lower-than-average fuel costs. But because of dictatorial collectivism, the nation of Venezuela can’t even feed its citizens, let alone extract its natural resources which, at one time, made Venezuela the richest country in South America. While California’s descent into full-blown socialism isn’t as steep as President Maduro’s regime, it would be foolish to believe that we are far behind.

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.