Coming soon: A major hike in gas prices
By By U-T San Diego Editorial Board
Eight years ago, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed AB 32 — the state’s landmark law to combat climate change by forcing a gradual shift to cleaner but costlier energy.
At the time, the governor and legislative leaders were forthcoming about the law’s downside.
Schwarzenegger demanded and won a provision allowing a future governor to suspend the law if there was evidence its mandated higher energy costs were hurting the state’s economic competitiveness. Lawmakers, worried about the disproportionate effect of higher energy costs on poor families, got provisions included that required some of the funds generated by “cap-and-trade” auctions of pollution rights go to help the disadvantaged.
But in ensuing years, this candor vanished. For years, AB 32 has been depicted by the state’s dominant Democrats as a job-creation program with next to no downside.
Finally, courtesy of 16 Assembly Democrats, this dishonest happy talk is being exposed. Last month, they issued a letter calling on the California Air Resources Board to suspend portions of AB 32 that amount to a “hidden gas tax” that will soon force an increase of at least 15 cents in the cost per gallon. “There’s not a lot of public transportation in Fresno,” explained Assemblyman Henry Perea, D-Fresno. “We rely on our cars here, and for gas to go up another 15 cents a gallon is a major hit.”
The “major hit” Perea fears may in fact be much larger. In 2012, a state consultant forecast an increase of 43 cents to $1.59 a gallon because of AB 32. Congress is also considering raising the federal gasoline tax by 12 cents a gallon to replenish the depleted Highway Trust Fund, which helps fund infrastructure projects across the nation.
But the air board and Gov. Jerry Brown say full speed ahead. And they continue to downplay the idea that there is any downside to AB 32 — even though Brown has been grousing for years about costly regulations hurting California’s growth.
This dishonesty and incoherence needs to end, and the candor seen in 2006 about AB 32 needs to re-emerge.