Why Washington state has the highest gas prices

Photo Credit: Getty

The price of gas in Washington State is currently the highest in the nation averaging $4.99 per gallon as of June 28, 2023. This is $1.33 higher than the national average of $3.56. It is even 34 cents higher than Oregon, whose gasoline price usually matches closely with Washington’s, at $4.65 per gallon. The price started to go up in January 2023 after the enactment of Climate Commitment Act (CCA), which has a system of charges to businesses based on the amount of carbon dioxide emissions they produce.

The reasons for the high gas price are hotly contested. Those in defense of the CCA claim that corporate greed, summer demand, and maintenance on the Olympic pipeline caused the high prices. The law’s detractors claim that it forces businesses to pass on the tax to its consumers. Who is right?

 The law’s defenders’ reasoning, according to E&E news, is that companies are using the new law as an excuse to price gouge to earn a “monopolistic profit.” However, according to the Washington Policy Center, the tax on gasoline emissions adds up to 44.3 cents per gallon  has resulted in a direct price increase.

As for the summer demand as a reason, the best response is “yes, but actually no.” It is true that gasoline prices tend to increase in the summer due to demand and petroleum mix, but that does not explain why the price is so high in Washington. It does compound the issue but is not a main cause of the relatively high price.

Finally, in regards to the Olympic Pipeline maintenance, the pipeline also provides gasoline to Oregon, but this has not affected the price of gasoline in a similar way to Washington. Moreover, this is a routine maintenance that has happened before and has not previously pushed the gasoline price to the highest in the nation.

A nail in the coffin for those claiming that the CCA is not a reason for increased price is that supporters of the CCA, such as the campaign group Climate Solutions, actually stated that the price of gasoline would increase due to the CCA.

“Of course carbon fees increase the price of gasoline. That is the point,” said Danny Westneat, a columnist for the Seattle Times who supported the bill. This rhetoric appeared to change only after the public showed signs of being upset by the high prices.

Some of these factors could have pushed the price of gasoline higher; however, they would not have pushed the price to its current level without the CCA bill. When it comes to having the highest price in the nation, the state has only its legislature to blame.