Get 5% off in-app
400k+ download
Open app

How Much is Gas in California? Why is it So High?

  • Gas
  • Katie Carter
  • 8 minutes

Spread the love

Did you know that gasoline prices in California are typically higher than the national average? Let’s see how much gas costs in California and why. 

The average price of regular gasoline across the country has not changed much in the past month. As a result of refinery problems, gas prices in California have risen nearly 20% since September 3, 2022.

Be like Chico and save on gas

How much is a gallon of gas in California?

The price of retail gasoline is currently $5.07. You can always check Way.com’s gas price checker to find out the current gas prices in California.

California has always paid much more than the nation for fuel at the pump. Still, an average price of nearly 70% more than almost everyone else in the U.S. seems extreme.  Why does this happen, and how does it affect drivers in Cali?

Cars line for the Costco Gas Station California amid high gas price.

Does the spike in gas prices affect daily life? 

Yes, high gas prices directly impact individuals who rely on personal vehicles to commute to work or school. It puts an additional financial burden on households. 

Small businesses that heavily rely on transportation, such as delivery services or independent contractors, face higher operational costs due to increased fuel expenses. This can lead to reduced profitability or potential price increases for their goods and services. 

Higher gas prices affect low-income households disproportionately, as they often spend a higher percentage of their income on transportation. 

Why is gas so expensive in California?

This is because of several factors, like higher taxes and the cost of producing a special fuel blend.

In December 2022, a gallon of gasoline at a retail station in California was $4.32, while the average price of a gallon of gas across the rest of the United States was $3.09. That is a difference of $1.23 per gallon. The California premium can be attributed to several different quantitative factors. One of the reasons is that state gas taxes have just been raised. Another aspect to consider is the state’s policies regarding the quality of the air.

How do environmental regulations impact gasoline production in California?

California is known for its stringent environmental policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and combat climate change. Here are some of the inspiring policies:  

Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS): The LCFS is a regulation that requires a reduction in the carbon intensity of transportation fuels sold in California. It aims to promote the use of low-carbon and alternative fuels while reducing the carbon footprint of transportation. 

California Global Warming Solutions Act: AB 32, enacted in 2006, is a landmark climate change law established to reduce California’s greenhouse gas emissions. The law requires the development of regulations and market mechanisms to achieve emission reductions across multiple sectors, including energy, transportation, and industry.  

Why do environmental regulations result in higher production costs for gasoline suppliers? 

Environmental policies, such as the Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) and the California Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32), can lead to increased production costs for gasoline suppliers in several ways: 

  • Compliance Costs: Gasoline suppliers must comply with the regulations imposed by environmental policies. For example, under the LCFS, suppliers must reduce the carbon intensity of the fuels they sell. This may involve investing in new technologies, infrastructure upgrades, or purchasing credits from providers of cleaner fuels. These compliance costs can increase the overall production costs for gasoline suppliers. 
  • Technology Investments: Meeting the requirements of environmental policies often necessitates the adoption of new technologies and processes. Gasoline suppliers may need to invest in equipment or technologies that reduce carbon emissions or enable the production of low-carbon fuels. 
  • Fuel Blending and Sourcing: To comply with environmental regulations, gasoline suppliers may need to blend their fuels with lower-carbon alternatives or source fuels with lower carbon intensity. These alternative fuels may be more expensive or less readily available, increasing supplier costs. 
  • Market-Based Mechanisms: The Cap-and-Trade Program establishes market-based mechanisms where companies must hold emission allowances. Gasoline suppliers may need to purchase emission allowances if they exceed their allocated emissions limits.  

Does California use a special gasoline blend? 

California’s strict environmental laws require refiners to produce a special blend of gasoline and different blends for the winter and summer seasons. That’s contributed to the state’s trouble meeting demand. California refines most of its gas in the state, but Singapore also produces the special blend of gas required. However, importing refined petroleum from Singapore isn’t a quick fix. 

What are the fuel blend requirements in California? 

California has unique fuel blend requirements established by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to address air quality and reduce emissions. These requirements include specifications for gasoline additives. Here are some key aspects of California’s fuel blend requirements: 

  • California Reformulated Gasoline (CaRFG) 
  • Oxygenate Requirements 
  • Additive Specifications 
  • Detergents and Deposit Control Additives 
  • Anti-Knock Index (AKI) and Octane Ratings 

What are the challenges faced by California with few refineries? 

Here are some situations which lead to the state’s fuel supply and pricing dynamics: 

  • Population and Vehicle Ownership: According to the California Department of Motor Vehicles, as of January 2021, there were over 36 million registered vehicles in the state. The high population and vehicle ownership rates result in significant demand for transportation fuels. 
  • Limited Refinery Capacity: California has a relatively low number of refineries compared to other states. The state has 15 refineries, according to the California Energy Commission. Compared to the demand, the refining capacity is relatively limited. 
  • Fuel Supply Challenges: The limited number of refineries in California can lead to supply challenges and potential vulnerabilities. Unplanned refinery outages, maintenance activities, or natural disasters can impact fuel production and supply.  
  • Imported Fuels: California imports a significant amount of refined petroleum products from other states and countries to meet the demand for transportation fuels. The state relies on pipelines, marine terminals, and trucking to transport fuels from refineries outside California.  
  • Pricing Impact: The limited refining capacity and potential supply disruptions can impact fuel prices in California. When there is a supply shortage, prices tend to increase due to increased buyer competition.  

Why does California have higher fuel taxes compared to other states? 

State Excise Tax

California imposes a tax on gasoline and diesel fuel. As of the cutoff in September 2021, the state excise tax for gasoline is 50.5 cents per gallon, which is higher than the national average. The excise tax for diesel fuel is even higher at 36 cents per gallon. 

Additional Taxes and Fees

In addition to the state excise tax, California levies other taxes and fees on gasoline. These include a 2.25% sales tax on gas, a 9.67% sales tax on diesel fuel, and an additional underground storage tank fee. These other taxes and fees contribute to California’s higher tax burden on fuel. 

Local Taxes

Some local jurisdictions in California impose their own sales taxes or fees on fuel. These local taxes can vary, further adding to the overall tax burden on gasoline. 

Revenue Allocation

The revenue generated from fuel taxes in California is intended to fund transportation infrastructure projects, public transit systems, and other transportation-related initiatives. The higher fuel taxes partly support the investments in California’s transportation network. 

Will fuel taxes in California decrease in the future? 

According to the Law of Lower Fuel Tax Rates in 2022–2023, the Governor has proposed a one-year reduction in fuel excise tax rates compared to the law now in effect. The magnitude of this cut would cancel out the cost-of-living increase, which starts in July 2023.   

How does speculation in the oil futures market affect gasoline prices? 

Speculation in the oil futures market can potentially impact gasoline prices in California. When there is increased speculation that oil prices will rise, traders may buy oil futures contracts, driving up the cost of those contracts. This increase in oil futures prices can indirectly affect gasoline prices in California for several reasons; here is how it works: 

  • Oil Futures Market: The oil futures market allows traders to buy and sell contracts for oil delivery at a future date. These contracts speculate on the price of oil at that future date. 
  • Speculation and Price Volatility: Speculators, including hedge funds, institutional investors, and individual traders, participate in the oil futures market to profit from price movements. Their actions can contribute to price volatility as they buy or sell contracts based on their expectations of oil prices. 
  • Influence on Gasoline Prices: Gasoline prices in California are closely tied to the global oil market because the state relies on imported crude oil and gasoline. Speculation in the oil futures market can influence global oil prices, which impacts the prices of crude oil and gasoline. 
  • Demand and Supply Factors: Speculation in the oil futures market can intensify the impact of demand and supply factors on gasoline prices. For example, suppose speculators anticipate a future increase in oil prices due to geopolitical tensions or disruptions in oil-producing regions. In that case, they may buy oil futures contracts, driving up the prices in the futures market.  

Final Thoughts 

Various factors, including global oil prices, taxes, environmental regulations, and regional supply and demand dynamics, can influence gas prices. So we should keep a balanced approach to address these challenges and explore potential solutions, such as investing in alternative fuels, expanding refinery capacity, and promoting energy-efficient transportation. 

To mitigate the impact of high gas prices in California, some individuals opt for alternative transportation options like public transit, carpooling, or using more fuel-efficient vehicles. The state government also promotes the adoption of electric vehicles and provides incentives to reduce reliance on gasoline-powered cars. Nonetheless, the high gas prices in California remain a significant challenge for many people. 


Related Posts


Press ESC to close