(The Center Square) – Despite falling prices three weeks in a row, Washington state seems to have stabilized as the most expensive place to fill your tank nationwide.
Even accounting for the decline, the price to gas up in the Evergreen State has risen nearly 30% since the new year following the implementation of the new cap-and-invest carbon tax legislation.
The average price of a gallon of regular unleaded was sitting at $4.92 statewide on Monday, down from $4.93 the week prior, according to AAA data. This price drop marks only the 5th week this year of declining fuel prices for Washingtonians.
This one-cent per gallon decrease moved opposite the national average, which rose from $3.56 to $3.59 per gallon.
“Gas demand barely budged from last week, yet compared to this time in 2022, it is higher nationwide except for the Gulf Coast, Texas, and New Mexico, “said AAA spokesperson Andrew Gross in a statement. “Some industry experts speculate that scorching temps in that region are keeping people off the road.”
Washington’s $4.92 per gallon is $1.33 per gallon, higher than the national average of $3.59 per gallon. It is also $1.86 per gallon above the nation’s least expensive fuel cost of $3.06 per gallon, currently paid by Mississippi residents.
Intra-state variance in Washington remains high at $1.30 per gallon, up five cents per gallon from the week prior. The outliers this week, again San Juan and Asotin counties, represent the most and least expensive gas prices statewide at $5.49 and $4.19 per gallon, respectively.
This price variance still largely follows the Cascade Range, with residents to the west paying a higher premium at the pump than residents to the east.
Some experts think there’s a legislative component to the relatively high cost of Washingtonians’ fuel, as previously reported by The Center Square, citing the state’s cap-and-trade carbon tax program implemented on Jan. 1 of this year.
“They claimed the program would cost ‘pennies,’ but Washington’s consumers are now paying 50 cents per gallon for just the cap-and-trade program,” said Catherine Reheis-Boyd, Western States Petroleum Association president, in a statement to The Center Square.
One Democrat, Senator Mark Mullet, agrees this price is too high, having recently introduced state legislation to cap the price of these auctions.
Gov. Jay Inslee disagrees with Mullet on where the blame lies.
“No, they’re not passing [it] on,” replied Inslee during a recent press conference, suggesting none of the recent price increases have been due to the state’s new cap-and-invest policy.
His own spokesperson, Mike Faulk, disagrees with the governor.
“The governor does not deny that the Climate Commitment Act’s cost impacts are likely more than the projections he based his past comments on. The projections did not anticipate the oil companies trying to pass along as much vaguely defined compliance cost onto the consumer,” said Faulk in an email to The Center Square.
The third carbon auction is still set to take place on Aug. 30 of this year, but prices in the second auction were deemed too high.
This triggered the Allowance Price Containment Reserve clause of the cap-and-invest law, adding an emergency fifth price containment auction of carbon shares taking place on Aug. 9.
Brett Davis contributed to this report.