(The Center Square) – Standing in front of four electric buses in the Highline School District, Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee called a press conference Thursday, July 20, to address fuel prices in the Evergreen State.
“[These buses] represent both the future and the present of the state of Washington, where we are transforming our economy to one that runs on clean energy and reducing outrageous costs for oil and gas,” said Inslee before going on to accuse the oil and gas industry of selectively price gouging in Washington.
He proposed future legislation, which he said would be introduced in January, to “demand transparency” and “force them to release their [accounting] books.”
“This is the most profitable industry in human history. They dwarf profits from anywhere else,” said Inslee.
Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft announced profits of $18.3 billion during the same time period.
Some industry experts think this incident isn’t isolated, calling out Inslee on a history of incorrect details around the cap-and-invest program.
“Rather than ‘strategically misrepresenting’ the issue to the public, the Governor and lawmakers can help consumers and businesses in the state by working with us to fix the cap-and-trade program,” said Catherine Reheis-Boyd, Western States Petroleum Association president, in a statement to The Center Square. “They claimed the program would cost ‘pennies,’ but Washington’s consumers are now paying 50 cents per gallon for just the cap-and-trade program.”
When Inslee was asked what would be done about pump prices before the nebulous legislative solution in January because “in the meantime, the oil companies are passing on the costs of those credits,” he categorically denied that’s what was happening.
“No, they’re not passing [it] on,” replied Inslee on Thursday, suggesting none of the recent price rise has been due to the state’s new cap-and-invest policy.
At one point during the conference, Inslee joked that he “doesn’t have a Nobel Prize in Economics” and claimed his bachelor’s in economics from the University of Washington was “enough to see that oil companies are blatantly price gouging.”
One state legislator disagrees.
“As I’ve said before, anyone with the slightest grasp of economics had to know that forcing companies to buy ‘carbon allowances’ from the state would eventually hit consumers. It’s not a surprise,” said Sen. Lynda Wilson, R-Vancouver, in a statement following the news release.
“Now it seems they don’t want to be accountable for their intentions and their actions. Instead, they complain about oil-company profits, even though their ‘cap and gouge’ policy has made it possible for the state to do its own profiteering – like $850 million from just two auctions of carbon allowances,” added Wilson.
With those two auctions complete, and three more remaining this year due to a cap-and-invest clause triggered by high auction prices adding a third, that trend continuing means the state’s profit could top $2.12 billion this year.