Governor Gavin Newsom has called on the California Attorney General’s office to investigate big oil companies and the price of gas.
The Governor’s call for an investigation comes after a recent California Energy Commission (CEC) report found that companies such as Shell, 76, and Chevron have been charging the highest prices in California for gas for no apparent reason.
One reason given by the companies, higher quality gas, was debunked in the report by experts who found no quality change between gas in California and gas in other states. The CEC also found that motorists are being overcharged between 30 cents a gallon to as much as $1 a gallon at gas stations. Over the last 5 years, drivers have been found to have paid $11.6 billion in extra surcharges in California.
“There is no identifiable evidence to justify these premium prices,” said Governor Newsom. “The mystery surcharge adds up, especially for cost-conscious, working families. If oil companies are engaging in false advertising or price-fixing, then legal action should be taken to protect the public.”
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, upon receiving the Governor’s letter, has confirmed that his office will be handling the investigation.
While the Governor is launching an investigation, oil companies and gas station owners have begun to refute the allegations.
“I’ve been in the same business with all the big dogs for years and I don’t see anything wrong,” said Dave Austin, an owner of an independent gas station in Fresno County. “If anything big companies have prices lower than me. So I don’t see why people think they would be overcharging.”
“A big reason was gas is so high is because of what California takes from taxes, which is a little more than a dollar per gallon. That’s where we see a lot of it go.”
“I’ve been to meetings on prices and what they’ll be charging us, and the big cost is coming from the state adding new taxes on, or making new laws that makes gas more expensive. Like that gas tax a few years ago.”
“Most people want to blame big oil companies. And, don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot about them that’s shady. But this time it’s at least partially California’s fault. They keep changing taxes and laws, and different stations react differently with prices. We’re still trying to figure things out.”
Even the California Energy Commission has said that there has been no evidence of price fixing.
But with many questions the Governor and other lawmakers have gone unanswered, the investigation may still reveal what exactly oil companies are doing and if they have done anything illegal to inflate prices.
The California Attorney General’s office has not yet said when the investigation would begin.