Jeff Ackerman: Californians pay more at the pump |

Jeff Ackerman: Californians pay more at the pump

Jeff Ackerman

“If you’re going to San-Fran-Cis-Co … wear flowers in your hair” and … bring 20 gallons of gasoline in the trunk.

According to recent reports, California’s gasoline topped an emotionally-draining and psychologically damaging $4 per gallon this week.

This happened while the price of a gallon of gasoline everywhere else in our Great Nation was dropping.

That’s right, happy motorists. The average price of a gallon of a gasoline in the Golden State on Monday was $4.02. The average price per gallon among the remaining 49 states was $2.64.

I know … who needs gasoline when you can take a high-speed train from Merced to Bakersfield?

Good point. But I have never met anyone wanting to get to Bakersfield in a hurry. Even if the high-speed train was ready to take them, which it’s not. The dream of taking passengers from San Diego to San Francisco at 200 miles per hour has been reduced to 119 miles of track connecting Merced to Bakersfield.

Kind of like finding yourself working at Burger King after spending $200,000 on a finance degree.

After 20 years, nobody can really say for sure how the costs for the “Train To Nowhere” have grown from $33 billion to $77 billion and counting. I read a story where the state auditor said it would take her office six months to answer that question. She did blame “poor contract management” and “flawed decision making,” which is like discovering that an iceberg was responsible for the sinking of the Titanic.

Poor management and flawed decision making aren’t the only reasons Californians pay a dollar more per gallon for gasoline than the rest of us.

Looking to lead the way in environmental protection, California spends more for oil because it’s “special” oil. In fact, there is a summer and winter blend that is more expensive to make, which is why most oil refineries don’t make it.

As a result, California needs to import much of its oil from places where people are blowing things up, which is always risky and tough to predict. The recent spike was blamed on the Saudis and … indirectly … Trump. Never mind that the production of oil in Saudi Arabia has been back to full strength for a month.

Then there are the taxes. When you’ve blown through billions of tax dollars on a train to nowhere, you need to find a new sugar daddy. The price of a gallon of gasoline in California now includes around 60 cents in taxes, the highest in the nation.

As some of you know, I live in Eugene, Oregon these days. I moved here four years ago because it offers better services for my son Luke, who is autistic. I still have a daughter and grandchildren in Grass Valley, so I try to get down there as often as possible. Even more often, now that I know there is a brewery where The Union printing press once stood. They also offer a summer and winter blend.

It takes me around eight hours to drive from Eugene to Grass Valley, so I generally stop for gas in Mt. Shasta City. Given the dollar-per-gallon difference in gasoline prices between Oregon and California, I need to rethink my strategy. I will refuel in Ashland before crossing the border from now on. My Tacoma truck doesn’t really care what kind of gasoline I pour into it, so long as it’s enough to get the job done.

It’s worth noting, however, that Oregon gasoline prices are not only a dollar less per gallon, but that someone pumps it for you and … if you ask … they’ll clean your windshield.

And … no … it’s not because we don’t know where the gas tank is. They don’t allow you to pump your own gasoline in Oregon because … well … because they don’t want you to get wet.

It’s also worth noting that I register my truck every two years and … it’s around $100.

All of that will end one day soon because Oregon eventually does whatever California does and then Washington follows suit. It usually starts with a, “Hey … did you see what California just did?” in the halls of the state capitol building.

The cheapest gasoline prices ($2.27 per gallon average) are in Louisiana, according to a comparison provided by Gas Buddy. You can live a lot cheaper in The Bijou, but eventually insects will eat your brains.

The second-highest gasoline prices this week were in Hawaii, but even they were almost 40 cents per gallon cheaper than California. That’s tough to understand, since Hawaii … last I checked … was an island with no oil refineries.

The good news is that when you wake up each day you are in California, which is way better than waking up in Cleveland, where gasoline was only $2.37. That’s referred to as a “quid pro quo,” which is Latin for “I’d rather sit on empty in California than have a full tank in Cleveland.”

Jeff Ackerman is the former publisher of The Union. He may be contacted at

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