"All In Perspective" Column for the week of October 15. "All in Perspective" is published bi-weekly in the Hill Country News, Georgetown Advocate, and Jarrel Star-Ledger print editions.
It’s been a tough year for California. Stockton and numerous other Golden
State cities have filed for bankruptcy. The state government, already struggling
under $618 billion in debt, has created a budget that includes as much as $28
billion in deficit spending, and residents are being asked to approve a slew of
tax increases for the coming year. Now, Californians are paying the highest gas
prices in the nation.
Although fuel prices in California have been rising faster than the rest of the nation for some time, this
month the state’s average price reached a record high of $4.67 per gallon. The
immediate cause for the latest price surge was a temporarily disabled refinery
in the southern part of the state, however, this is only the tip of the iceberg.
As even the left-leaning New York Times has noted, California’s stringent
environmental policies and high gas taxes are underlying causes of this latest
crisis. The state’s tough emission standards effectively eliminate use of gas blends from other states, and therefore
California must rely heavily on in-state refineries. Additional regulations have
reduced the number of refineries by 20% since 1985. To make
matters worse, California touts the second-highest gas tax in the nation.
These policies have drastically reduced fuel supplies while demand has
continued to climb, a dynamic that ultimately leads to higher prices. Higher
fuel costs mostly impact the middle class and poor, and, as in the case of
ethanol mandates, actually contribute to higher pollution rates while driving up
food costs too.
While Senator Diane Feinstein has been quick blame energy producers for the
crisis, it’s no secret that the goal of the Democrat’s radical environmental
policy is higher prices. Barack Obama stated in 2008 that he
actually wanted to “boost” the price of gasoline to European levels, and since
the price per gallon has more than doubled since 2009, I guess this is one of the few
campaign promises the President did keep.
Although certainly feeling the effects of the Obama economy, Texas has fared
better than the rest of the nation. Not only has the state economy grown during
the recession, gas prices have remained lower than the national average. ($3.53
per gallon as of October 12.) Taxes on gas are relatively low, and the state has much more reasonable
environmental policies. Common-sense environmental regulation has kept gas
prices manageable and has improved air quality. In fact, in the last decade, Texas
reduced NOx and ozone levels at more than twice the national average.
Unfortunately, there are those who want to impose California-style energy and tax policies on Texas.
Locally, Democrat candidate for the legislature Matt Stillwell has suggested
raising state gas taxes. He has complained that state tax revenues are not
enough to maintain and construct roads, but does not mention, that only half of the state’s fuel
taxes are used for highway construction and maintenance, while the
rest is diverted to other uses, some of which have little to do with
Despite Texas’ environmental successes, Democrats in the state want much more
stringent, California-style environmental restrictions. The aforementioned Mr.
Stillwell even questioned if Texas should impose further regulations on the
proven technology of fracking for domestic oil exploration, even though the United States Geological Survey, the EPA, and the University of Texas have all concluded that there is no
evidence that fracking causes groundwater contamination. (Or earthquakes,
tornadoes, or hurricanes, for that matter.) Stillwell also rejects local and
state conservation efforts, and desires federal intervention in Williamson
County on behalf of salamanders.
Clearly Texas has been doing something right; we are consistently ranked one
of the top states for business, and the Lone Star State created about 37% of all
new American jobs last year. At the same time, that notorious Texas pride has
led to sound conservationist policies that strive to preserve the state’s
natural beauty and resources. The key factor has been a balanced approach to
policy. The last thing Texans need is to become more like California. Seriously,
don’t mess with Texas.