The average nationwide gasoline price on Friday was the lowest for this point of the year since 2005, according to GasBuddy, a website and smartphone app designed to help drivers find the best deals at the pump. . . The average driver in South Carolina could fill up for $2.02 a gallon on Friday, compared with $3.06 in California and Hawaii, according to AAA. The Western states are seeing the biggest increases from last year, because of rising demand by drivers and unplanned maintenance of local refineries. Drivers in New Jersey are paying 23 cents a gallon more than a year ago because of an increase in gasoline taxes.
How much does it really cost Californians to use renewable energy, and who’s going to pay for it? That’s the question raised by Southern California Edison’s proposed rate hike of nearly 13 percent.
The list of people who are upset about the increase includes the members of the International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 12. “SCE’s habit of raising rates on its ratepayers indiscriminately has to stop,” wrote union official Ronald J. Sikorski in a letter to the California Public Utilities Commission. “Working families can’t afford it and neither can seniors on fixed incomes.”
But Edison says the money is needed to upgrade its infrastructure to handle the many demands of California policies, like mandates for 50 percent renewable power by 2030, and a goal of 1.5 million plug-in electric vehicles on the road by 2025 (up from about 285,000 now).
Sure, for the fortunate few, they might have to miss a couple of coffees a week, but this reality only applies to the outliers in California. A tech worker in San Francisco won’t worry about a gas tax when their commute consists of a 20-minute walk or using their taxpayer-subsidized Tesla to make the drive into work. Opposition to a gas tax increase becomes rare when you can afford to live close to work or purchase a new, fuel efficient vehicle.
I, however, come from a community with a very different point of view. Before the vote on the gas tax increase, I spoke with dozens of people from my district to really understand how this would impact their daily lives. Juan Robles, husband and father, drives 200 miles a day selling rocks from a quarry. He’s not sure his company will be able to stay in California because of increased taxes. This doesn’t seem like just a $10 cost for Juan.
The growth is also prompting a face-off between the public programs and California’s three biggest private utilities, including Pacific Gas & Electric. In the dispute, both sides have suggested their ratepayers are getting a bum deal in how the state has set the rules for this new era. For the public programs, the outcome has high-stakes implications because their customers could end up paying considerably more to offset the growing costs for excess power that the utilities contracted for but no longer need.
The public programs, typically known as Community Choice Aggregation, or CCA, agencies, have grown to control about 5 percent of the state’s electricity market, a new study reports. But both utilities and other experts say that number will increase markedly as other communities join the trend.
But that electricity trend has changed recently. American households use less electricity than they did five years ago. The figure below plots U.S. residential electricity consumption per capita 1990-2015. Consumption dipped significantly in 2012 and has remained flat, even as the economy has improved considerably.
So what is different? Energy-efficient lighting. Over 450 million LEDs have been installed to date in the United States, up from less than half a million in 2009, and nearly 70% of Americans have purchased at least one LED bulb. Compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) are even more common, with 70%+ of households owning some CFLs. All told, energy-efficient lighting now accounts for 80% of all U.S. lighting sales.