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Punishing California

Or, Threatening Other States Not to Follow Our Lead:

I’ve long been aggravated by gas prices in California, prices that, where I live, average about 30 cents a gallon more than prices for comparable fuel in Louisiana. But I’ve always known better than to complain much–after all, prices here are still pretty tiny compared with prices in other countries. And even within the US, there are worse places; after all, prices in Hawaii are inevitably 25 to 30 cents a gallon higher than in Los Angeles. Which only stands to reason; every drop of gasoline that arrives in Honolulu must go through some system of trucks, ships, and more trucks before hitting the pump.

Imagine my horror, then, during last week’s trip to Hawaii, when I discovered that gas in Honolulu was 30 cents a gallon cheaper than in SoCal. This is not an exaggeration; the day I flew out, gas in Clareville was going for approximately $2.97 a gallon, and when I arrived on the island, the first place I spotted was charging $2.69. And that price stayed relatively stable during the week, while gas at home was at $3.09 by the time I got home.

What gives? The story that’s been told (scroll about 2/3 of the way down the page) as long as I can remember is that because California has banned MTBE from its fuels, only a very few refineries can supply the state. But I’m deeply dubious–particularly when that gas is now 10% more expensive than it is on an island in the middle of the fucking Pacific ocean. R.’s theory is that the oil companies are both punishing California for its emissions-control regulations and threatening other states not to follow in California’s footsteps. I’m pretty convinced. After all, can the proximity of the recent spike in gas prices and last year’s passage of Proposition 87 be entirely coincidental?


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