Inslee on debilitating gas prices: ‘We won’t stand for’ corporate greed

Jul 20, 2023, 1:36 PM | Updated: Jul 21, 2023, 11:43 am

Inslee gas prices...

Gov. Jay Inslee said he will get to the bottom of high gas prices in western Washington at a news conference Thursday. (Kate Stone/KIRO Newsradio)

(Kate Stone/KIRO Newsradio)

After leading the nation in gas prices for the first time in Washington state history, Governor Jay Inslee claimed oil and gas companies are retaliating against the state’s climate policies.

Inslee scheduled a press conference calling for legislation to force fuel companies to “open up the books” and face consequences if they are price gouging.

“You know what they’re doing with that money? They’re giving it to their CEO,” Inslee said during the press conference. “The CEO of Exxon Oil made $35 million last year while he’s jacking up our prices through the roof.”

According to AAA, the price for a gallon of regular unleaded gas is averaging $4.93 statewide. Mid-grade gas is around $5.15/gallon, and premium averages $5.36. The nationwide average is just $3.58 in comparison.

More on Washington gas prices: WA most expensive state to buy gas for first time in history

“We intend to rein in the terrible pollution that the oil and gas industry is causing across our state and our nation and we won’t stand for it,” Inslee continued.

But critics of the governor are pointing to the state’s new carbon emissions charges as the main reason prices are rising at the pump, including Rep. Mary Dye, R-Pomeroy, who issued a statement to respond to Inslee’s address. Dye claimed Washington’s inflated fuel prices are not because of “big oil,” but because of big government gouging its residents.

“Washington state also has the eighth-highest gas tax in the nation at 49.4 cents-per-gallon of fuel, yet we have terrible roads, unreliable ferries, an alarming increase in traffic fatalities, and horrible traffic congestion,” Dye wrote. “Combine this with the cap-and-trade hidden tax, it means nearly $1 of every gallon of gasoline goes to state government, not big oil.”

KIRO Newsradio’s Kate Stone asked the governor: “Is there anything that you could support to sort of alleviate things for drivers right now?”

Inslee said: “One is to hold these companies accountable to reduce the prices. That’s what we’re talking about today, we want to give drivers relief, we want to go to the heart of this problem, which is the greed and avarice of these oil companies who are still not telling us the truth. That’s the most powerful thing we can do, secondly, we are moving forward to try to build a larger market of our carbon credits.”

Washington held its first cap-and-invest auction this year on Feb. 28, raising nearly $300 million in the process. After its success, the state held a second carbon emission auction last month to allow gas and oil companies to bid against each other to buy a limited amount of carbon emission allowances.

The cap-and-invest program sets a limit, or cap, on overall carbon emissions in the state and requires businesses to obtain allowances equal to their covered greenhouse gas emissions. These allowances can be obtained through quarterly auctions hosted by the Washington State Department of Ecology. They can also be bought and sold on a secondary market, like a stock or bond.

This program was established in 2021 within the Climate Commitment Act (CCA), which established a comprehensive, market-based program to reduce carbon pollution and achieve the greenhouse gas limits set in state law.

More on Washington’s carbon emission auction: WA carbon emission auction nets nearly $300M from oil, gas companies

According to Todd Myers with the Washington Policy Center, this cap-and-invest program will mean drivers will pay approximately 45 cents more per gallon of gas and 54 cents more for diesel.

“For more than a year, Governor Inslee and staff and the Department of Ecology claimed their new tax on CO2 emissions wouldn’t significantly increase gas prices,” Myers wrote in a statement. “That turned out to be completely inaccurate, causing Ecology to scrub its web page of those erroneous claims. Now, they – along with climate activists – are changing tactics, attempting to blame others for the predictable results of their own policy. And their new excuses are as deceptive as their previous claims.”

Climate Solutions, an organization claiming to address the global climate crisis, worked alongside Inslee to confront oil companies over potential price gouging at the pump.

“Just last week, a spokesperson for Chevron blamed high gas prices on Washington’s new climate policies,” Leah Missik, a Senior Policy Manager with Climate Solutions, wrote regarding Washington’s cap-and-invest program. “He said, ‘it’s not our job to go bankrupt to help the state avoid the consequences of its programs. There’s no way for a refiner to absorb those costs; they could literally bankrupt the industry.’ Bankrupt? Chevron posted a $36.5 billion profit last year — a record high.”

Missik claimed the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) — of which Chevron is a member — has previously supported cap-and-trade programs, but is also spending millions of dollars undermining climate policy, including the Climate Commitment Act which established the cap-and-invest program.

“In 2014, WSPA has activated a significant number of campaigns and coalitions that have contributed to WSPA’s advocacy goals and continue to respond to aggressive anti-oil initiatives in the West,” a slide from a leaked 2014 presentation by WSPA read. The slide listed off many “grassroots” campaigns, including Fed Up at the Pump, Save Our Jobs, and Californians Against Higher Oil Taxes — some of which have been debunked by NRDC as corporate-funded campaigns.

More on Washington’s eco-friendly solutions: Overgrown vegetation no match for SDOT’s eco-friendly contractors … goats!  

A grassroots campaign is defined as a movement that uses the people in a given district, region, or community as the basis for a political or economic movement.

Myers and the Washington Policy Center said the Governor and Climate Solutions’ claims are “entirely false” regarding oil companies purposefully raising prices, stating Inslee and his team are not including expenses.

“Blaming the increase in gas prices that has occurred this year on data from last December is obviously inaccurate, but the governor and Climate Solutions are looking for the closest tool at hand, even if it is misleading,” Myers continued. “That amount [of money] cited by the governor and others doesn’t go to the oil companies. That margin goes to gas stations, companies like Costco, Safeway, and other gas retailers. Many gas stations – even those that are branded – are owned locally, not by the oil companies. Saying that revenue goes to the ‘oil company’ is simply wrong.”

KIRO Newsradio’s Kate Stone contributed to this reporting

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Inslee on debilitating gas prices: ‘We won’t stand for’ corporate greed