Why Gas Prices in California Are Particularly High

The price of gasoline in the United States hit a new high on Tuesday at $4.173 a gallon, surpassing the previous record set in July 2008.

But, as you probably know, fuel costs in California have been climbing for weeks and are significantly above the national average. On Tuesday, the average cost of a gallon in the Golden State was $5,444, the highest in the nation, according to AAA.

So why are we paying so much at the pump?

Gas prices have been rising nationwide for months due to increased demand following the Covid-19 shutdowns. Costs began to climb even higher once Russia invaded Ukraine, and will most likely continue to rise following President Biden’s decision on Tuesday to ban imports of Russian oil.

California is the only state where a gallon costs more than $5. In Los Angeles, San Luis Obispo, Napa and many other areas of the state, the average price of regular unleaded is now over $5.50.

“It hurts me a lot,” Boualem Dehmas said this week as he filled up at a Chevron station in San Francisco, where regular gasoline cost $5.69.

Dehmas, 52, is a self-employed limo driver who supports a wife and three children. How does it manage to survive price increases? “God only knows,” he said.

High fuel prices in California are partly due to taxes as well as regulatory programs aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Together, they added about $1.27 to the cost of a gallon of gasoline last month, according to a calculation by the Western States Petroleum Association.

About 40% of this cost comes from the state gasoline tax. California taxes fuel at 51.1 cents a gallon, the second highest amount in the nation after Pennsylvania, according to the Federation of Tax Administrators.

A planned increase in this tax is expected to come into effect in July to keep pace with inflation. Gov. Gavin Newsom has offered to stop the spike, but Democratic leaders have been reluctant to agree.

In his state of the state address on Tuesday, Newsom also offered a tax refund to deal with rising gas prices. He said he was working with lawmakers on the plan “to put money back in the pockets of Californians.”

Kevin Slagle, a spokesman for the Sacramento-based Petroleum Association, said gasoline prices also tend to be higher here because the state is a “fuel island.”

California produces enough gasoline to meet 30% of its needs, and the rest is imported from Alaska or other countries, he said. There are no interstate pipelines carrying gasoline in the state.

This means that all imports must be by ship or by truck, both of which are more expensive. (If you’re wondering, the biggest foreign importers of California crude oil are Ecuador, Saudi Arabia and Iraq, according to the California Energy Commission.)

In the Bay Area, one of the country’s most expensive housing markets, many low-wage workers who commute long distances from more affordable areas are feeling the pinch.

Manuel Garcia travels 92 miles every day from Sacramento to San Francisco for his job at a construction company. The price of filling his truck went from $80 to $140.

“If my company wasn’t paying for my gas, I would be looking for work elsewhere,” Garcia, 62, told The New York Times.

While current prices are certainly high, they’re not breaking records if you take inflation into account, writes Los Angeles Times columnist Michael Hiltzik.

In 2008, the last big spike in gas prices, the cost of a gallon in California hit $4,588. If you translate that into today’s dollars, it would be $5.83, much higher than the current price at the pump.

Yet gasoline prices have an outsized impact on people’s perception of the economy, my colleagues reported. Fuel may only represent a small portion of overall consumer spending, but the giant numbers posted along every highway in America have a lot of influence.

For more:


Today’s tip comes from Jennifer Walters, who recommends Mission Dolores Park in San Francisco:

“As you seek an escape hatch from the endless zooms and four walls that contain you, restore your soul in San Francisco’s oasis, Mission Dolores Park. Stroll down Steiner Street past the Painted Ladies and discover a tropical jungle nestled among the concrete hills.

The Canine Olympics are held every day at random intervals, but more frequently on summer afternoons. During the pandemic, I would go and hope to see the same athlete Border Collie. He sprints downhill, sending clods flying as he launches for the hold. One way or another – every time – he picks up the Frisbee as he dives towards the ground. Crystal-eyed huskies struggle in a torrent of black and white fur. Small dogs lounge around and sometimes wear more clothes than humans.

The Mission Dolores Basilica overlooks palm trees. Below, the statue of Miguel Hidalgo gazes across the lawn strewn with people — solo sunbathers, best friends, first dates, and fewer and fewer strangers. Here, within these four walls – Church, 18th, Dolores and 20th Streets – the world bows in wonder.

Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to [email protected] We will share more in future editions of the newsletter.


Join the Times for a free online event tonight with two of the nation’s most prominent Covid-19 experts.

Dr Bob Wachter and Dr Monica Gandhi, both of the University of California, San Francisco, have worked throughout the pandemic to explain the risks of Covid-19. And often they disagreed.

See event details here.


Thousands of miles of trails and bike paths criss-cross the Bay Area, but many of them exist in piecemeal fashion. There are gaps and dead ends instead of a single, coherent system.

The Bay Area Trails Collaborative hopes to change that.

The collaboration — a partnership of about 50 public agencies, land managers, bike coalitions and park districts — recently released a master plan to connect the bay to the ridges and city streets to dirt hiking trails.

The proposal is an ambitious 2,604-mile trail system stretching across the Bay Area’s nine counties, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

Jeff Knowles, volunteer co-chair of the collaboration’s communications and partnerships team, told the newspaper, “The vision is simple: wherever you live, you can walk out your front door and spend all day on the trails.”


Thanks for reading. I will be back tomorrow. — Soumya

PS Here today’s mini crosswordand a clue: Place for a contact (3 letters).

Briana Scalia and Mariel Wamsley contributed to California Today. You can join the team at [email protected].

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