California drivers’ wallets will feel a little lighter while pulling away from gas stations in 2015.
Beginning January 1, California’s gasoline producers will be subject to new regulations under the state’s cap-and-trade system. As a result, gas prices for the state’s motorists will likely increase due to what opponents of the regulations are calling a “hidden gas tax,” although the ultimate amount of the increase is still anyone’s guess.
“My understanding from the economists we’ve talked to is that it will be very quick, sometime in January – if not on the first, then shortly thereafter,” California Air Resources Board spokesman Dave Clegern told the Contra Costa Times.
Under the new regulations, first approved as part of the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, gasoline and diesel fuel producers will be forced to provide more expensive low-carbon fuels to consumers or else purchase so-called “pollution permits,” which allow companies to exceed their emissions limits for a price. Oil refineries, power plants, and industrial facilities are all subject to the cap-and-trade regulations, though each will likely be affected differently. The regulations call for a reduction in the emissions cap by roughly three precent every year, with the aim of reducing greenhouse gas emissions across state industry.
Still, proponents and critics of the regulations are split on the degree by which gas prices will rise.
According to the Times, opponents argue that the price of gas will increase anywhere from 16 to 76 cents per gallon, although that figure is based on a previous national average of $4 per gallon.
“It’s going to hurt the poorest people in the state,” state Sen. Andy Vidak (R-Hanford) told the Times. “Gasoline is not a luxury, it’s essential for folks.”
Vidak is set to introduce a bill opposing the new regulations, SB5, at the start of the next legislative session. The bill would exempt transportation fuels from the cap-and-trade program.
“I believe it’s common sense,” Vidak told Breitbart News. “So many people in California probably don’t know this is coming. They’ve seen gas prices go down across the country, and now here we go with this new tax, implemented by an unelected, unaccountable Board. Only in California are gas prices actually going to go up.”
“Another issue is transportation costs for our school districts,” Vidak added. “When you’re putting more of the general fund into transportation instead of student activities and teachers… I mean, these schools were just starting to see some relief.”
A number of self-described “grassroots” organizations have sprung up, circulating petitions and gathering signatures in opposition to the cap-and-trade regulations. The California Drivers Alliance and Fed Up at the Pump are two such groups, although some critics point out that the groups are financially backed by big oil companies.
Proponents, meanwhile, argue that a relatively small increase in per-gallon prices is worth the effort to bring down statewide greenhouse gas levels.
“More people are seeing the impacts of climate change, and transportation is the source of 40 percent of our greenhouse gas emissions,” Clegern told the Times. “The fuel suppliers have known they were going to be doing this now for more than five years, and they have been at the table with us throughout the process.”
“I always say common sense has no party line,” Vidak told Breitbart News. “I know a lot of people who were getting some relief, who were able to go out and have that extra meal. Now the state is going to be taking that money right out of people’s pockets.”