California Begins Big Oil Inquiry to Lower Gas Prices

The California Energy Commission isn’t necessarily an agency that the public, or even reporters, follow for its every twist and turn.But it does have a wide-ranging purview and its decisions can affect people’s daily lives, not to mention the industries being regulated.

For example, last week, it voted to begin proceedings for two key initiatives that Gov. Gavin Newsom says could lower prices at the pump. The actions were outlined in the gas price gouging and transparency law that Newsom signed in March.

Before holding its vote, commission members and staff described the first of two initiatives — which enables the commission to begin looking into oil company profit caps and to potentially penalize those who exceed that cap — as “complicated” and a “monumental task.”

Drew Bohan, the commis

sion’s executive director, said agreeing to move forward allows the commission to further evaluate gas prices. It will also permit stakeholders, including environmentalists and oil companies, to weigh in and authorize staff to develop recommendations.

But Sarah Taylor, an associate counsel for the trade group Western States Petroleum Association, unsuccessfully urged the commissioners during the meeting to “do its due diligence” before rushing to a “decision that will likely impact every Californian.”

Given the wider scope of data that their newly formed watchdog group can collect, the commissioners also voted to start a rulemaking process to investigate refinery maintenance. This may lead to the commission imposing time limits to lessen the impact of production losses.

The trade group also objected to the motion in vain.

:“Data has the potential to move markets, place our in-state refineries at a competitive disadvantage and could have a monumental impact on our economy at a time of increasing global volatility,” said Taylor. “Expediting this process does not help any of us… Data would likely provide a distorted view of how the industry operates, potentially worsening a situation the CEC is tasked with avoiding.”

The commission’s actions on Oct. 18 won’t do much to immediately lower prices at the pump (as of Sunday, AAA reports the average price per gallon in California was $5.45, higher than the national average by $1.90), but they’re key to ensuring that Newsom’s law remains effective. As for next steps, the commission is expected to host a series of workshops, public hearings and stakeholder meetings in November.

Republicans in the Legislature say there’s a much quicker fix: Cutting the state gas tax, and they’re still imploring Newsom to call a special session to do just that.


  1. This must be at least the 100th “investigation” the State has made into big oil, and yet they never find anything. What a waste of time and money, just so they can “say” they are doing something, and all along it is the State that is causing the price increases.

    Newsom is either a liar or a moron, and he’s no moron.

  2. There should be a process to prevent 5 out of 13 refineries from shutting down at the same time. Supply doesn’t seem to be the issue since there is plenty of gas to go around. Cutting the gas tax has limited benefit since its 51 cents.

  3. When will you people ever learn the rules of supply and demand? In Californias case you must ban all internal combustion engines and fuel burning power plants. The end result will be a zero demand for fossil fuel thus dropping the price. Unfortunately, the price of all other sources of energy will skyrocket leaving Californians hot, cold, and in the dark.
    But you people have been in the dark for years anyway.

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