California drivers faced a second day of record gasoline prices on Sunday. In response, Gov. Jerry Brown directed the Air Resources Board to take emergency steps to increase the state’s gas supply. What’s causing California’s price spike, and how are drivers coping?

Severin Borenstein, professor at U.C. Berkeley's Haas School of Business and co-director of The Energy Institute at Haas
Cynthia Harris, spokesperson for the American Automobile Association

  • Zak

    I’m moving from Oakland to Eureka in a few weeks. Gas prices on the North Coast are usually higher than the Bay Area.

    So I’m now planning on spending $200 for gas. Thats more than the truck rental!

  • Guest

    Californians remain ‘entitled’ to their right to drive whatever they want wherever the want as if it were enshrined in our Constitution or something. It is not. When gasoline prices go up, as they inevitably must, I can only hope that it will *wake up* the drivers I see sitting alone in their over-sized vehicles at the stoplight. Sadly, their brains seem to remain asleep at the wheel as I cross the street to take VTA or Caltrain wherever I’m headed.

    • $11165038

      Not all RT systems are created equal as I stated in my comment. Its great if you live in area where you can take the bus or train where you need to go but not all RT systems have those options.

      • Guest

        I can get where I go using RT in less than half the time it takes using the available RT. I *choose* to use it anyway. I can get as much done in transit as in the office, sometimes more. It isn’t about how long it takes to get from A to B. It is about the externalities entailed in getting there.

  • chrisco

    Bike, baby, bike. Over the past 4.5 months, I have driven less than 400 miles but ridden my bike(s) about 2500. I am on the peninsula and and live close enough to near where I work (5 miles) that it is not inconvenient to ride. And I have a large basket on the back for groceries, etc. And it is a lot more fun than driving!

  • Progress is good

    How is it not collusion when the refineries decide to put a little less gas in the market as your panelists stated or when the gas prices magically go up every year at the beginning of summer?

    • Ellis

      Yes, one has to love the “Magic of
      the Market Place.” What we are seeing is planning(or lack of) by a
      small group of corporate tycoons whose goal is to maximize profits.
      Most countries don’t allow this vital sector of the economy to be
      decided by the private corporations alone. A more serious discussion
      needs to be had in California about the petroleum industry. We need
      more aggressive regulations to prevent more Richmond incidents and
      other weaknesses in the infrastructure. Yes, the oil companies pay
      for the regulation and enforcement regime. It’s the price they should
      pay for us giving them the privilege of making tens of billions of
      dollars on our resources. The Government of California actually needs
      to have significant input regarding our petrol infrastructure with a
      view to best meeting the needs of Californians at the lowest price
      possible. I also like the idea; that our entire country needs be on
      the “California Blend.”

      • Ellis

        Oops, I forgot to mention a “windfall profits tax.” If these corporations have made excessive profits off of the increases, it should be taxed back by the state.

  • Mike

    We should abandon this special blend. Newer cars have updated smog controls so why do we need this? And if the rest of the country hasn’t adopted this why should we pay extra money? This hurts Californians.

  • $11165038

    An alternative to my car is not an option currently. Perhaps one day, if the plan to bring the light rail into my neighborhood materializes. It really depends on the quality of the rapid transit system in your area and not all are created equal. If the bus routes made more sense or there was shuttle service to the downtown area I would be open to not driving into work. However the time/cost plays into it too. I only live 6 miles from work yet it only takes me 10-15 minutes in the morning and 20 to 30 in the afternoon by car. If I took the bus that time doubles and possibly triples in afternoon because I would have to get clear across downtown in order to catch the bus home since the route I would have to take doesn’t pick up on the side of downtown that I am on and there is no connector route. Unfortunately instead of creating bus routes that make sense in order to encourage ridership, our RT system has cut routes.

  • The guest mentioned that increased gas taxes are a non-starter; why not? Why not get in line with Europe and many other parts of the world and tax the heck out of gasoline? The tax revenues could be used improve our roads and highways. They could also go towards public transportation and research in better efficiency. It would encourage people to drive less and more efficiently. And finally taxes could act as a buffer to maintain steady gas prices and avoid panic.
    Or you could ride a bicycle and not pay for gas at all.

    • Slappy

      Do you not have a job? Anyone with a job knows that we’re tax enough as it is. We, as a country, should be able to afford more with the amount of tax that we pay, but we don’t. Why not? We pay tax on income when we earn it, we pay tax on it after it’s invested, we pay tax on the goods purchased (using the income that’s already been taxed), then we pay more tax on our property (after, of course, it’s already taxed at the time of purchase), and we pay tax AFTER WE DIE.

      How are you going to advocate tax on a commodity that is essential to our economic welfare? Everyone is hurting financially already, and increased gas prices are not going to help. How in Hell is more tax going to solve the problem? IT’S NOT. The problem is WASTE. GET A JOB.

      Unless you already have one. Then, in that case, GET AN EDUCATION.

      • Fep

        I don’t believe your name is really Slappy.

      • Nice flame, I have a job, started my own a business, pay a lot of tax, and have a very good college and professional education. It’s always good to insult and assume background about people you’ve never met; it’s what makes American politics great.
        I live in a very well developed society here in the Bay Area. I have also lived and worked in different countries (societies). I see those countries paying a lot more tax on everything and also having much better infrastructure and better quality of life, services, health, and education. Because I love where I live and want to improve it I am willing to pay to maintain and improve that society. The way that many Americans use their cars degrades our society by pollution and excess resource and energy usage. Getting everyone to consider how they use their cars and focus on being more efficient through a gas tax would be a net benefit for our society.
        Oh yeah, there would be a very easy way to get out of a gas tax: don’t drive. Once again I suggest bicycling for anything two miles or less; it is proven faster in most urban areas.

  • Bill D

    I drive at least 100 miles on $3 of electricity. Electric cars are here today and fantastic to drive. Most people think these cars don’t have enough range but that is generally a myth. See if they can work for you:

    • Eek

      I don’t get why GM didn’t just bring back the EV1, rather than starting this crazy Volt project. Meanwhile Smart is about come out with a $22k electric car.

  • mungemach

    Perhaps the best solution for all involved in this country would be to require the cleaner, California special blend of gasoline throughout the country. It would make California less susceptible to price spikes, and it would help clean the air throughout the country.

    How do we make this happen?

  • GassingOn

    The market at work. I am always struck by how many who celebrate the free market as a sign of American greatness don’t like it when they meet it bright and visible in their own lives

  • cynthiaprice

    My motorcycles get about 60 MPG – since I only have to buy 2-4 gallons of gas a week, a price increase is not a big deal.

  • John

    The real crisis is that it’s 2012, and the average mpg of a new car sold in the US is 23. I know this isn’t a popular position, but I hope that the price of gas gets even higher. Maybe then our country will finally get serious about investing in renewable energy, and we’ll have enough of an incentive to pursue more sensible transportation policies.


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