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Breaking down why California gas is so expensive

Highway 50 billboards aim to explain California's rising gas prices
Highway 50 billboards aim to explain California's rising gas prices 02:59

SACRAMENTO — A campaign by the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) is breaking down California's fuel costs. They say the goal is to step outside of politics and look at the facts.

If you've taken a drive into West Sacramento going west on Highway 50, you may have seen a giant billboard that reads 'Why is our gas expensive?" It seems like a great question, but there isn't a simple answer.

The billboard is visible to thousands of drivers every single day. It directs observers to visit a Know Your Facts Per Gallon website, and it's all paid for by the WSPA.

"This billboard is part of a bigger program that's been active for several months now talking about the different policies that lead to increased costs at the pump," says WSPA spokesperson Kevin Slagle.

The website shows the graphic below, but Jamie Court, the president of Consumer Watchdog, says the breakdown of numbers is misleading.


He says they shouldn't lump in state and federal taxes because those numbers aren't unique to California. Every state pays them.

"We pay 70 cents more per gallon than the average state for gasoline in terms of taxes, and yet what we pay at the pump, it's consistently $1.20 or more," Court said.

The two taxes unique to California are cap and trade at 30 cents and low carbon fuel standard at 11 cents.

"When they're doing this facts page, it's complete BS because they're adding in the costs of other taxes other states pay," Court said.

"Our facts come from the California Energy Commission, from the U.S. Federal Government, from third party members who track this data," Slagle said.

CBS13 reached out to the California Energy Commission (CEC) to fact-check the numbers from Facts Per Gallon and they said in a statement, "We do not consider the data to be definitive or authoritative at this time. We are currently developing rules to ensure refiners are accurately accounting for costs and profits."

"These companies are making a fortune off Californians and the governor is about to implement a price gouging penalty that we enacted last year in special session, and that's why you're seeing this from the oil refiners," Court said.

But the WSPA says the campaign is for something different.

"The goal of the campaign is to get the facts out there. There's enough political rhetoric. There's enough demonization going on out there. We think it's important that people understand the facts," Slagle said.

The CEC says the national average for state gas tax is 32 cents, and California is about 58 cents.

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