Pull into a gas station these days and you get the feeling you’re being mugged.
Gasoline in less than a week has climbed in excess of 50 cents at more than a few Manteca gas stations breaking the $4.70 per gallon barrier in a high octane rush to the $5 mark.
Blame the oil companies. Who wouldn’t? It always seems refinery power outages, routine maintenance, pipeline shutdowns, and oil refinery explosions somehow happen in unison. But as much as the oil companies deserve to be a big, fat target much of the blame deserves to go to the folks who have made systematic assault on the free market a high art form - the politicians and their bands of merry bureaucrats both in Sacramento and Washington, D.C.
They have created a protection racket for oil companies that makes the mafia in Sicily at their finest moments look like rank amateurs.
We take all of our anger at the people who work at the gas stations because that is where we have reasonable fears that we will soon be shelling out $5 a gallon. They have absolutely nothing to do with it. They don’t set the prices. Next on our list of targets are the big, profitable oil companies. As much as you despise them as you spend the money you had set aside for a new pair of sneakers for your kid so you can fill the tank to get to work, the masterminds behind $5 a gallon gasoline are the folks up in Sacramento.
It has little to do with the fact California has to burn its own special blend to meet clean air standards dictated by folks 2,473 miles away along the Potomac River who aren’t paying more than $3.73 per gallon for gasoline as you read this.
Sacramento regulators have made it impossible to build a new refinery in California. It’s been more than 40 years since a refinery has been built essentially using government regulations for all practical purposes to stop refinery growth and therefore dictate market capacity. During the same time the number of vehicles in California - including trucks - has soared from 20 million to over 33 million. Is it any wonder why a hiccup in the supply chain turns into full scale ammonia by the time it hits the pumps?
It is the direct result of the environmental perfection movement gone wild. If you owned an oil company you’d have to be nuts to even propose to build another refinery in California. First, you would be lucky to escape any environmental review hearing with your life. And second, why would you want to mess up a good thing? Politicians kowtowing to the environmental perfection movement have given you the perfect conditions to squeeze more money out of a gallon of gas at opportune times.
The oil flowing from North Dakota and elsewhere as America enjoys an energy production renaissance will do little to help us in California.
State regulations dictated by federal air quality mandates have turned California into a fuel island. There is only so much oil a refinery can process. And, yes, they do break down and they do require routine maintenance.
The working folks of this state are again being scarified for environmental perfection. Rising fuel prices hurt everyone but more so independent truckers, farm workers, and the working poor who have no choice but to drive to reach their employment.
We are all victims of highway robbery being conducted by the oil company henchmen who are given their de facto marching orders by the dons in Sacramento.
Enjoy the $5 a gallon of gasoline while it lasts. These days, unfortunately, may be looked back upon fondly in 2032 just as we remember 55 cents a gallon gas in the early 1970s.
This column is the opinion of managing editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at email@example.com or 209-249-3519.