Western View: Why So Much For Gasoline?

Dan Economy, Energy, Western View

Last week, some of California’s state legislators made a discovery.  They found out that California drivers are paying as much as a dollar a gallon more for their gasoline – but no one knows why.  It’s a mystery.  Actually, two mysteries. – First is, these legislators didn’t know we are all paying way more than anyone else in the country for fuel?  Don’t they pump their own gas?  Don’t they hear their constituents screaming in pain every time they stop at a gas station?  The second mystery is, why is this happening?  Is it government or big business that’s picking our pockets?

Surprisingly, this added cost does not seem to be due to Jerry Brown’s gas tax that he strong-armed through the legislature back in 2017.  That was a 12 cent per gallon tax.  There is an additional 20 to 40 cents per gallon price increase that seems to have just happened, after a big refinery fire in 2015.  This is according to research done by  UC Berkeley professor Severin Borenstein.  He found the mysterious price increase while leading a committee formed by the California Energy Commission.

The professor says the higher price is not explained by the fact that we have higher taxes.  Yes, gas taxes are high but not the highest in the nation – Pennsylvania is the top dog for fuel tax.  Those folks pay 78 cents a gallon in taxes – 6 cents more than Californians – but their total price is, on average, 30 cents per gallon less.  The study showed the price isn’t due to California’s cap and trade program for greenhouse gases.  It’s not even because of the cost of making cleaner-burning gasoline.  

Some legislators are wondering if maybe, just maybe, big oil has something to do with the high prices.  Gee, ya think?  You don’t suppose the big companies are getting together to limit supply and increase demand – thus raising prices –   Again?  Gee whiz, surely not.

I’m Len Wilcox and that’s the Western View from AgNet West and Citrus Industry Magazine.  Visit us on the web at

Western View: Why So Much For Gas?

About the Author

Len Wilcox

Len Wilcox is a retired scientist who also ran a newspaper and has written for agricultural publications since the 1980s. He was a regular contributor to California Farmer Magazine. His commentary “The Western View” is a regular feature on Farm City Newsday and AgNet West.