Business · California

Valley leaders press for gas tax halt, expanded drilling to alleviate gas prices

With gas prices nearing $6 in California, Valley local leaders are pushing the state to take action that would see those prices fall.

Tuesday, Kern County is set to make a request of the state to suspend the restraints on oil and gas permitting and extraction to ease supply disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine. 

Under Gov. Gavin Newsom, California has taken action to end fracking permits by 2024 and plans to phase out oil drilling across the state by 2045. 

“Due to the state’s adverse policies regarding natural resources, California is eight times more dependent on foreign oil imports than three decades ago and uses over three times more oil that it produces, averaging 501,000 barrels produced per day, yet consuming over 1.6 million barrels each day,” Kern County Chief Administrative Officer Ryan Alsop wrote to the board in his recommendation. 

“There are currently no pipelines to bring oil to California from any other part of the United States, therefore the state must rely on imported oil to make up its daily usage deficit.” 

Last year, over 15.4 million barrels of oil were imported from Russia, which totals 6.7 percent of California’s total imports, Alsop said. 

“The unprovoked Russian invasion of Ukraine and other geopolitical tensions in Europe have stoked market speculation that will inevitably push the prices of energy soaring to new heights and negatively impact inflationary trends that will increase the price of consumer goods for all Californians,” Alsop wrote. “With the U.S. issuing a ban on Russian oil imports, market conditions will likely become even more volatile and energy prices will likely remain high over the next several months.” 

If the resolution passes, Kern County hopes that the state will suspend all permitting limitations to encourage the local oil industry to increase production and drive down gas prices in the state. 

Kern County’s proposal comes on the back of a letter from Fresno County Supervisor Nathan Magsig to Newsom last week requesting that the state’s gas tax be suspended for one year. 

Currently, California’s gas tax totals 51 cents per gallon, only behind Pennsylvania as the second-highest in the nation. 

Additionally, it is scheduled to rise to 53 cents per gallon in July. 

“Many of the residents of Fresno County live at or below the poverty line. For them to have to pay an additional $20-40 a week to fill up their gas tank would take away their basic needs of healthy food choices, prescription medicines, utility bills, and other essential purchases,” Magsig wrote. 

“The County of Fresno is 6,000 square miles. Many of our essential workers need to travel from the city into the rural areas to harvest the produce which feeds our country. How many of these workers will not be able to commute to work because they cannot fill their gas tank?”  

Magsig told Newsom that while suspending the gas tax is only a temporary solution, federal leaders in Washington D.C. will need to find permanent solutions, such as becoming less dependent on foreign oil, to decrease gas prices. 

In the meantime, though, Magsig is looking at Newsom to alleviate prices at the state level. 

“The citizens of Fresno County are looking for leadership from Sacramento,” Magsig wrote. “Please be that leader.”

Daniel Gligich is a reporter for The San Joaquin Valley Sun, focusing on Fresno State Athletics and the southern San Joaquin Valley. Email him at daniel.gligich@sjvsun.com.