Hank Sims / @ 7:41 a.m. / Economy, Sacramento

Gov. Jerry Brown Appears to Do Something About High Gas Prices

Last week in Redway. Photo: Kim Sallaway.


The governor yesterday issued the California Air Resources Board an order: Allow gasoline refineries to switch to cheaper “winter blend” gasoline a week or two early, thereby stretching out the state’s gasoline supply and smogging up the joint only moderately.

Or so we are told. The directive smells largely symbolic: Refineries were due to make the switch to the winter blend on Oct. 31 anyway, but last week’s statewide moan about leaping prices apparently called for some sort of government intervention.

Your Lost Coast Outpost, for one, did not know that such a thing as “winter-blend gasoline” existed, and we call upon those readers with environmental and/or regulatory expertise to help us parse this out. Is the “winter blend” appreciably nastier than that which is on tap in the summertime? Are we correct in assuming that Brown’s call to arms in this matter is merely a case of appearing gubernatorial?

Beats me. Anyway, half of my brain is with the various Facebook-based Friends of the LoCO who shyly posit, in posts marked privatissimo, that gas should really be much more expensive than it is.

 Press release from Gov. Jerry Brown’s office follows:

Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. today directed the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to take emergency steps to increase the state’s gasoline supply and bring down fuel prices.

The Governor directed the board to immediately allow oil refineries to make an early transition to winter-blend gasoline. Winter-blend gasoline typically isn’t sold until after October 31.

“Gas prices in California have risen to their highest levels ever, with unacceptable cost impacts on consumers and small businesses,” said Governor Brown. “I am directing the Air Resources Board to immediately take whatever steps are necessary to allow an early transition to winter-blend gasoline.”

Winter-blend gasoline is a mixture that evaporates more quickly than the gasoline sold in summer months, which takes longer to evaporate and is better for air quality during the smog season. Allowing an early transition to winter-blend gasoline could increase California’s fuel supply by up to an estimated 8-10 percent with only negligible air quality impacts.

Gas prices in California have skyrocketed over the past week due to a tightening of fuel supplies caused by shutdowns at Tesoro and Exxon refineries. The Exxon refinery came back online Friday and Tesoro is scheduled to resume production early next week. Combined, these actions are expected to stabilize and reduce fuel prices.

The text of the Governor’s letter to the California Air Resources Board (CARB) is below:

October 7, 2012

Mary Nichols, Chairman

California Air Resources Board 

Chairman Nichols:

California is temporarily experiencing tight gasoline supplies that are causing dramatic spikes in the price consumers must pay to fuel their vehicles. Gas prices in the State have set new record highs, and gas is completely unavailable at some stations in southern California. If this situation continues, it may cause unacceptable price impacts for consumers and small businesses, significant economic disruption, and serious harm to public safety and welfare.

California refiners are required to produce a summer-blend gasoline through October in most areas of the State. After October 31, a winter-blend gasoline is allowed. Due to the composition of the gasoline, refiners can produce more of the winter-blend than the summer-blend.

In light of the tight gasoline supplies and resulting price spikes, we should not wait until the end of the month to start production of our winter-blend gasoline. Allowing refiners to make an early transition to winter-blend gasoline could quickly increase fuel supply and provide a much needed safety valve with negligible air quality impacts. Accordingly, I am directing that the Air Resources Board immediately take whatever steps are necessary to allow for an early transition to winter-blend gasoline to be manufactured, imported, distributed, and sold in California.

Edmund G. Brown Jr.





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