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About this blog: I am a native of Alameda County, grew up in Pleasanton and currently live in the house I grew up in that is more than 100 years old. I spent 39 years in the daily newspaper business and wrote a column for more than 25 years in add...  (More)

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L.A. court decision has San Ramon ties with national implications

Uploaded: Feb 9, 2016
A landmark case decided in Los Angeles last week has a tragic local angle.
An L.A. judge sentenced Dr. Hsiu-Ying Tseng to 30 years to life in prison after a jury convicted her of the murders of three patients who fatally overdosed on drugs she prescribed. The physician apologized to the families of her victims during the hearing—the first time she had done so, according to a Los Angeles Times report.
Among the victims was Joey Rovero of San Ramon who died late in his senior year after mixing alcohol with Xanax and oxycodone at his Arizona university. His mother, April, witnessed most of the trial.
The Los Angeles Times story quoted her saying, “"It feels too late," Rovero said outside the courtroom. "But it was better to hear something than nothing."
After Joey died, April founded the National Coalition Against Prescription Drug Abuse and continues to work to strengthen laws and raise awareness.
Another news story out of Southern California struck me recently. We had been in Newport Beach for a conference and found a gas station on Interstate 5 selling regular for just $1.99 a gallon.
The San Diego Union-Tribune story by Dan McSwain looked into why gas in California cost so much. Incidentally, in late September 2014, my daughter and I paid $2 for gas while driving across Interstate 40 to Memphis. I do not believe she has paid more than that since that time.
McSwain observed that he had just paid $2.49 at his neighborhood Costco (the Livermore Costco has ranged from $2.20 to $2.25 in the last week or so). Last Monday, McSwain reported that the California average price for regular was $2.55—11 cents more than it was a year ago.
Nationally, it was $1.82—down 25 cents year-over-year and 73 cents lower than the California average.
He went on to break it down:
Taxes at 59 cents per gallon at 11 cents higher than nationally.
The cap-and-trade that the governor and liberal Democratic leaders allowed to take effect last year adds 12 cents (you might ask, for what—Jerry’s bullet train—that’s where a large chunk of the money will go).
Add in California’s custom high-cost blend and that’s another 20 cents.
The remaining 30 cents is accounted for by market forces—the difficulty of competing with the custom blend and the opportunity for some businesses to take advantage to make an extra profit.
It all adds up to quite a surcharge for some quite questionable “benefits” and way too little of the extra money going to fix roads and bridges.
What is it worth to you?


Posted by Michael Austin, a resident of Pleasanton Meadows,
on Feb 9, 2016 at 8:24 am

Michael Austin is a registered user.

Last week in Pierre South Dakota gas was $1.44 for gallon 10% ethanol.

Posted by Dave, a resident of Danville,
on Feb 10, 2016 at 10:35 am

Well, Tim, you listed the costs, but didn't really describe the "benefits," other than to call them "questionable." Don't you think that a fair commentary would do both?

For example, why does California required a "custom, high-cost blend" of gasoline? Could it be to reduce smog? Do you remember how bad the smog in LA was before California implemented this blended fuel requirement? As I recall, usually you couldn't even see the San Gabriel Mountains from LA? Is that dramatic improvement to air quality one benefits that you call "questionable?"

Posted by Ed Eyetor, a resident of Birdland,
on Feb 10, 2016 at 11:17 am

First, why is one murder verdict a 'landmark'? It may be, but you don't explain why.

Second, that cap-n-trade 12 cents? Interesting that Big Oil claimed the effect would be 16-75 cents when they lobbied against it -- turns out to be well under their Minimum estimate, and well less than 20% of their maximum estimate. Typical lobbying lies and fear-mongering that you probably believed because it came from 'private sector experts.' The LA Times reports that the program is working well, Web Link and that that 12 cents is really more like 9 or 10 cents/gallon.

Third, that "large chunk" of c/t revenues going to HSR? It's actually only 25%, two whole bits, according to the Wall Street Journal. Some chunk.

Fourth, CA's special sauce gas blend is 20 cents for cleaner air. I am more than okay with that. And aren't you the guy who said you couldn't see Mt Diablo from Pleasanton (then pop 7,000) in the 1960s? Take a look today -- and thank our government for requiring that special sauce, and improving your view, and the health of your lungs.

That leaves almost half the extra cost so far unaccounted-for. That's called "refining margin," which means that gas prices have fallen a lot less than crude oil supply prices. Those margins are way up -- like 60% in CA from where they were a few years ago. In part, that's because Exxon blew up their refinery in the southland so supplies are artificially limited. Thanks Exxon. The rest is simply because they can. Oil companies are integrated for a reason -- they can make money upstream when crude prices are high, or downstream, like now.

So, you may rail against our clean air, Tim, and you may deny global warming, too. But when you buy gas and feel cheated, please be sure to thank your friendly global energy conglomerate in equal measure.

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