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Washington gas prices now highest in USA, Some experts point to new climate legislation

Washington, (Qnnflash) – This week, Washington has taken over California as the state with the highest gas prices, marking a significant shift in the cost of fuel. Prices in Washington have steadily risen since January, reaching an average of $4.91 per gallon for regular gasoline this week. This surpasses California’s long-standing position as the national leader in gas prices. In King County, the average price soared above $5 per gallon on Wednesday.

The price surge in Washington has been attributed to the state’s latest and most ambitious climate change initiatives, particularly the newly introduced carbon-pricing program. This program charges businesses for the greenhouse gases they emit and has already generated over $850 million from the first two quarterly auctions of emission allowances.

Oil companies have reportedly chosen to pass on the compliance fees to consumers, resulting in approximately 50 cents added to the cost of a gallon of gas. The State Department of Ecology, responsible for overseeing the carbon-pricing program, acknowledges this passing on of costs but lacks the authority to intervene.

Despite the recent price spike, gas prices in Washington remain lower than the inflation-driven prices experienced during the previous summer. However, the surge has ignited debates, with conservative think tanks and fuel industry organizations labeling the compliance fees as taxes. Some are even advocating for the repeal of climate legislation.

Governor Jay Inslee’s office contends that it’s too early to fully gauge the price impacts of the state’s climate policies. The office suggests that oil companies may be transferring their compliance costs to customers, while also emphasizing the broader societal costs associated with fossil fuel usage.

Experts point out that Washington’s emissions in 2019 reached their highest levels in over a decade, signifying the pressing need for climate action. The state’s ambitious climate goals include becoming carbon-free by 2050. However, the implementation of carbon-pricing has come under scrutiny for its impact on gas prices and public sentiment.

Severin Borenstein, a professor of business administration and public policy, asserts that Washington’s carbon-pricing program is directly linked to the recent price increase. He calculates that for every $50 per ton of tradable allowances, the price of gasoline increases by around 50 cents per gallon.

While it’s acknowledged that the carbon-pricing program has contributed to the rise in gas prices, advocates stress that cleaner and more affordable alternatives, such as electric vehicles, are available. The compliance costs associated with climate change initiatives have prompted consumers to reconsider their fuel choices.

As the state grapples with the price implications of its climate policies, advocacy groups are pushing for equitable distribution of revenues generated from carbon auctions. A portion of the funds will be allocated towards incentivizing lower-income residents to switch to electric vehicles, while another portion will support city and county efforts to adapt to climate change.

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