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EDITORIAL: The ‘mystery’ of California’s sky-high gasoline prices

When it comes to gasoline prices, California Gov. Gavin Newsom brings to mind the old joke about the boy who kills his parents and then begs the judge for mercy because he’s an orphan. Like the shameless child, Gov. Newsom now looks to escape responsibility by scapegoating Big Oil for the state’s exorbitant prices at the pump.

It’s tempting to blame Californians for their own predicament — after all, they continue to embrace leftist politicians eager to expand the administrative state and to further burden entrepreneurs and job creators. But perhaps Gov. Newsom’s stunt on gasoline prices will finally be too much to bear.

Progressives have long sought to drive up energy prices in order to force a reduction in fossil fuel consumption. As a presidential candidate, Barack Obama didn’t even try to hide it, acknowledging in a 2008 interview that electricity prices would “skyrocket” under his proposals.

The same tactic applies to gasoline prices. Climate change warriors agitate for all sorts of restrictive and punitive measures against oil and gas producers, which lead to higher prices at the pump, in a calculated effort to move motorists out of their cars and into public transportation or electric vehicles.

California is ground zero for this approach.

But Gov. Newsom argues that the state’s gasoline prices — running about $4.13 a gallon on average — can’t be explained simply by California’s oppressive regulatory and tax structure. He implies that major oil companies are conspiring to drive prices up even further in order to boost their evil profits.

Never mind that a recently released report by the state Energy Commission found no evidence of any illegal dealings. In addition, the Los Angeles Times reported, the report attributed more than 50 percent of California’s higher costs to the usual suspects, including taxes, the state’s cap-and-trade regulations and a low carbon-fuel standard.

Higher retailer margins accounted for about one-third of the difference. But as The Wall Street Journal noted, that can also be explained by the state’s anti-business climate. “Notably,” the paper editorialized, “the commission ignores that retail margins include labor costs, utilities, rent and taxes” — all of which have soared thanks to progressive policies.

Gov. Newsom and Democrats in 2017 embraced a higher gasoline tax, and the levy jumped another 15 percent in July to nearly 50 cents a gallon. In fact, California governments make more money off the sale of each gallon than do oil companies and retailers.

Having pushed for policies that hammer drivers at the pump, Gov. Newsom now wants to blame others for the pain his state’s motorists feel after every fill-up. Surely they’re smart enough to see through this cynical con job.

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