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Washington gas prices, most expensive in the nation, up 30% since January

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(The Center Square) – While the rest of the nation will see a reprieve from higher gas prices this holiday week, Washington state is leading the nation in gas prices for the third week in a row.

Two weeks ago Washington surpassed California as the most expensive fuel market in the nation, and that trend held this week as prices edged even closer to the $5.00 per gallon mark.

The average price of a gallon of regular unleaded was sitting at $4.98 statewide on Monday, up from $4.97 the week prior according to AAA data. This price hike marks the 22nd week this year of rising fuel prices for Washingtonians, following the implementation of the new carbon tax earlier this year.

This 1-cent per gallon increase moved opposite the national average which fell from $3.57 to $3.53 per gallon, a 4-cent decrease over the same time period.

“Gas prices are $1.30 per gallon less this year than last, but they are still high compared to historical averages,” AAA spokesperson Andrew Gross said in a statement. “The previous record average high price for gas on July Fourth was $4.10 in 2008, while the low was $1.39 in 2001. Yet despite currently elevated prices, drivers are not cutting back on travel this summer.”

While that trend may hold true for the rest of the nation, in Washington the inverse is true with fuel prices up $1.14 in the last six months alone.

Washington’s $4.98 per gallon places it $1.40 per gallon higher than the national average of $3.53 per gallon. It is also $2.03 per gallon above the nation’s least expensive fuel costs of $2.95 per gallon, currently paid by Mississippi residents.

In Washington intra-state variance remains high at $1.22 per gallon, up 16 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 $5.56 and $4.34 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 state policy 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 new cap-and-trade carbon tax program implemented Jan 1st of this year.

One of those experts thinks that legislative component may be as high as 45 cents per gallon.

“Although Washington is paying more for CO2 emissions than California, that additional cost doesn’t help the environment – it just harms our economy,” said Todd Myers of the Washington Policy Center in a recent report. “As long as the governor and agency staff continue to deny that reality, Washington residents will pay a high price for energy, but won’t receive the environmental benefits they are paying for.”

Sen. Mark Mullet, a Democrat, agrees prices are too high and recently introduced state legislation to cap the price of these auctions.

“Putting a price on carbon pollution is an important part of responding to our climate crisis, but the prices for carbon permits at our auctions have been way too high,” said Mullet in a statement accompanying the announcement of the legislation.

“The whole idea all along has been that our price for a permit for a ton of carbon should line up with California’s – instead we’re nearly double California’s price,” Mullet continued. “I think the Department of Ecology is sort of dropping the ball here, and it’s the people of Washington who are having to pay for it.”

The third carbon auction is set to take place on August 30th of this year.

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