In a positive turn of events, gas prices across the United States have gone down since their record high in the fall of 2022. Notably, California still faces higher prices, with an average of $4.49 per gallon, compared to the national average of $3.10. This enduring trend is influenced by several factors that are unique to the Golden State.
California is committed to environmental protection. The state uses a special fuel blend that reduces greenhouse gas emissions. This initiative dates back to the 1970s when California was granted the unique authority to set stricter emission standards than the federal government.
California’s proactive environmental policies add a small cost to each gallon of gas but have significantly improved air quality over the years.
Another factor contributing to higher prices is the dwindling number of refineries in California that can produce this specific gasoline blend. With only 11 major refineries left, any operational issues can cause significant price spikes, as seen in the record high prices of fall 2022.
Additionally, California drivers face the highest gas taxes in the country, with a unique combination of excise and sales tax on gasoline. This further distinguishes California from lower-taxed states.
Interestingly, Severin Borenstein, a faculty director at the University of California Berkeley, suggests that Californians’ preference for brand-name fuel stations over off-brand options also plays a role in the higher prices.
Despite these challenges, California’s efforts in reducing emissions have led to significant environmental improvements.