Governor Newsom and CARB Queen Mary Nichols Like High Gas Prices

Fresh off a trip to El Salvador, California Governor Gavin Newsom wonders why gasoline prices are so high, averaging more than $4.00 a gallon. The governor blames “inappropriate industry practices,” and some legislators hint at a “mystery surcharge,” but as Christian Britschgi noted in Reason, the reason lies elsewhere.

“As lieutenant governor, Gavin Newsom supported a 2017 bill increasing the state’s gas taxes,” Britschgi explains. “When running for governor in 2018, he opposed a ballot initiative that would have repealed that same increase.” In addition, “California imposes the second-highest gas taxes in the country. A state excise tax currently adds $.417 per gallon, a rate that will increase to $.473 come July. On top of that, the state imposes a 2.22 percent gasoline sales tax.” And for good measure, “California has adopted a low-carbon fuel standard and a cap-and-trade scheme for carbon emissions which together increase the state’s gas prices by $.24 per gallon above the national average.” Therefore, Britschgi concludes, “state government policies are a huge component of the final price everyone is paying at the pump” and “absent these policies, the state’s gas prices would be lower.”

In the Mateca Bulletin, Dennis Wyatt cites the state’s more costly gasoline blend as “a driving force behind our high gas prices.” And as the governor should be explaining, “those greenhouse gas charges the state slaps on fuel when it is refined is a cost of doing business that is passed on to consumers at the pump.”

Governor Newsom should be looking in the mirror, and Californians should be taking a hard look at California Air Resources Board boss Mary Nichols. Nichols is a lawyer, not a scientist, and has never seen a regulation she didn’t like. She left CARB in 1983 and worked for Bill Clinton’s Environmental Protection Agency, returning to CARB in 2007 at the request of Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Governor Jerry Brown reappointed Nichols in 2011, and CARB now operates with a budget of more than $860 million.

At a Reason conference in 1990, Nichols touted gasoline prices of $5 a gallon as a good thing. This regulatory zealot wants Californians to pay high prices, and Nichols is not troubled by any hardship to workers who must drive to their jobs. And as she knows, unlike the governor, the CARB queen never has to face the voters. Happy summer motoring, everybody!

K. Lloyd Billingsley is a Policy Fellow at the Independent Institute and a columnist at American Greatness.
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