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Opinion >  Guest Opinion

Chris Cargill: Olympia ‘swill’ will really hurt families

Chris Cargill

By Chris Cargill

They claimed it wasn’t going to happen. But now, we know for certain that gasoline prices in Washington state will begin to take a huge jump next year.

No, we don’t have a crystal ball. And no, this isn’t an issue of price gouging or “greedy” oil companies. This time, the blame can be centered right on Olympia.

State lawmakers, you’ll remember, recently passed a carbon tax and low carbon fuel standard. In order to get support for the low carbon fuel standard legislation, they insisted time and time again that it wouldn’t have an impact on gas prices.

In fact, Gov. Jay Inslee said “don’t let anyone give you that swill that this will increase gas prices.”

When legislative leaders from the majority party were asked about the price hike, they said they could find no evidence that the policies would raise the cost of a gallon of gas. They must not have looked very hard.

Washington Policy Center – and everyone else who had just a basic understanding of economics – knew there would be price hikes, and that they’d be potentially significant.

Now we have the confirmation. In what may be the most painful “see, we told you so” in recent memory, the Department of Ecology now confirms that, starting next year, gas prices are going to surge because of what the state did.

It may only be small initially – expected to be about 1 cent more next year – by 2031, it is now expected that the low carbon fuel standard will add 19.3 cents per gallon.

But that’s peanuts compared to the new carbon tax, which is expected to cost drivers about 80 cents per gallon by the time it is fully implemented, according to the Inslee administration. Almost 50 cents of that will be added next year – 2023.

Washington drivers already pay about 50 cents per gallon in state gas taxes and another 18 cents in federal gas taxes. All of the new taxes and fees will eventually hit $1.67 per gallon – before you even spend 1 cent on the gas itself.

What will you get for the carbon tax and low carbon fuel standard? It’s hard to see much, if any, benefit. The state confirms that the LCFS does not reduce CO2 emissions beyond already existing policies. At least with the gas tax, you know that some of it is going to be used on roads around the state. Inslee and his allies now call it “cap and invest.” Why? Because they take the money and get to spend it.

Was Olympia intentionally misleading when they debated this issue? Or did lawmakers actually believe that gas prices wouldn’t surge for all Washingtonians?

Either way, they were wrong, and the costs will be paid by Washington residents without any benefit to the environment.

Most citizens knew these ideas were going to be very expensive. They rejected them twice when the issue was on the ballot.

Families struggling to make ends meet and those on a fixed income will be hurt the most by this broken promise.

In the end, Inslee is right – the swill coming out of politicians and bureaucrats in Olympia is thick.

Chris Cargill is the Eastern Washington Director of Washington Policy Center, an independent research organization based in Seattle. Online at washingtonpolicy.org. Members of the Cowles family, owners of The Spokesman-Review, have previously hosted fundraisers for the Washington Policy Center and sit on the organization’s board.

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