Fuel prices in California are soaring like it’s 1979. A gallon of regular gasoline was averaging $3.82 across the state on Oct. 18, nearly a full dollar higher than the national average, according to AAA. Only in Hawaii are prices higher.
With the summer travel season over, we expect some relief. But prices are nearly 20 cents higher for all grades than they were a month ago and almost 80 cents higher than this time last year.
Maybe Californians will vote on Nov. 6 to repeal Senate Bill 1, which added 12 cents a gallon to gasoline excise taxes and 20 cents to diesel on Nov. 1 of last year. Polls, however, are indicating that Proposition 6 supporters might need to be prepared for defeat.
Even if Prop 6 passes, relief will only be temporary. Motorists in the state with the nation’s second-highest gasoline tax burden might get another kick in the teeth. Earlier this month, the Los Angeles Times reported that “the state’s air-pollution agency has enacted a regulation that will raise gas prices as much as 36 cents a gallon by 2030, and diesel by 44 cents, according to the agency’s staff.” The tax hikes are “part of the latest effort by the California Air Resources Board to fight climate change.”
Much as they’d like to, California officials don’t have the power to fine tune Earth’s climate. As we’ve noted before, this state produces less than 1 percent of all global greenhouse gases, and carbon dioxide, the most vilified of those gases, is an already weak component that grows weaker as its atmospheric concentrations increase. Furthermore, there are several natural factors that have greater effects on climate than CO2.
Yet our “leaders” persist in demonizing carbon. Why?
Publicly they justify their actions by declaring that their unflagging perseverance in the fight will inspire the rest of the world to rise to California’s decarbonization standards. Forgive us for sarcasm and reliance on a cliché, but good luck with that. Even the nations that squeal the most about greenhouse gas emissions haven’t met the Paris climate agreement standards.
The “Bloomberg Syndrome,” a condition observed a few years back by the Hoover Institution’s Victor Davis Hanson, in which policymakers become the masters “of lecturing about the cosmic while at times ignoring the more concrete,” also helps explain the “why.”
“Quite simply,” Hanson warned in 2011, “the next time your elected local or state official holds a press conference about global warming, the Middle East, or the national political climate, expect to experience poor county law enforcement, bad municipal services, or regional insolvency.”
By fixating on climate change, California officials try to distract voters from genuine problems they refuse to fix, such as: the public-employee pension crisis that threatens the state’s economy; a severe housing shortage that’s driven prices well into the unaffordable range for many; a highway and road infrastructure crushed to rubble after decades of neglect; failing public schools; and the highest poverty rate in the nation.
But put a tax hike on the table, or propose a new tax, and our policymakers will find a way to get it on the books. Then they expect us to thank them for it. Think about that while wondering just how high fuel costs will climb in California with the current political class running things in Sacramento.
Kerry Jackson is a fellow with the Center for California Reform at the Pacific Research Institute.