Why is gas so much more expensive in California than it is in Texas?
Gas prices are rising across the country, but drivers pay more to fill up tanks by state and area code.
As of Friday, California had the highest prices at the pump, while Texas had some of the lowest.
Californians pay about $2 more for a gallon of Texas gas — $5.68 and $3.78, respectively — according to carrier AAA.
Here’s why gas prices are higher in the Golden State than in Lone Star:
The West Coast is notorious for high gas prices in part because the area is considered a fuel island.
California is cut off by the Rocky Mountains from the oil market in the east. Instead, the country relies on international imports through the Panama Canal, which connects the Atlantic Ocean with the Pacific Ocean.
California imports more than 70 percent of its crude oil supplies, most of it from foreign sources, according to the states Western Oil Association. The state has about 14 of its own refineries, but the state’s oil production has fallen by 27.9 percent in the past decade.
By contrast, Texas is the largest oil producing state in the country, producing more than 4 million barrels of oil per day, according to the US Department of Energy (DOE).
Texas leads the nation in oil refining and has 31 oil refineries across the state, according to the Department of Energy. More than a quarter of the country’s 100 largest oil fields are located in Texas, and the state hosts a third of all US refining capacity.
Texas is also well connected to the rest of the country.
Among the oil-producing states, California ranks seventh, producing 341,000 barrels of oil per day. But the Department of Energy notes that the state’s crude oil production has steadily declined since 1985.
Texas has one of the lowest gas taxes in the country compared to California, which has the second highest in the United States
California’s gasoline tax is about 51 cents, according to a January report from the Tax Administrators Association.
California raised a gas tax last summer to combat high inflation. Lawmakers also raised the state gas tax by 12 cents in 2017 to pay for infrastructure, environmental projects and maintenance work.
In Texas, the gasoline tax is 20 cents, one of the lowest in the country.
Texas has kept the low gas tax at the same rate since 1991, according to the State Comptroller’s Office, which indicated that most Texans would not support raising taxes on motor fuels.
California also has a Cap-and-Trade program, which contributes to the state’s higher prices at the pump, according to Patrick D. Haan, head of petroleum analysis at Gas Buddy.
The program, designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, covers about 85 percent of the state’s emissions, or about 450 energy companies across California.
Greenhouse gas emitters whose products are emitting above the state limit have to buy credits, and that cost flows to consumers, equating to an increase of 20 cents per gallon for the population.
“Oil companies don’t have the capacity to absorb the huge cost,” de Haan told The Hill. “So it is directed to the consumer.”
California also uses cleaner fuels, which can be harder and more expensive in times of high demand.
To meet its cleaner emissions standards, the state of California requires motorists to use a special blend of motor gasoline called California Reconstituted Gasoline.
This can lead to problems when a country needs to be outsourced, according to the Department of Energy.
“It may take several weeks to find and bring in replacement gasoline from abroad that meets California’s unique specifications,” the department says.
By contrast, Texas uses a more conventional and less expensive type of gasoline, de Haan said.
“There are fewer refineries in California to produce the required gasoline,” he said. “The difference is that Texas has many refineries in its backyard…and there is more infrastructure to produce fuel, so the costs are generally lower.”