New Senate bill would force California refineries to reveal gasoline profits

Marathon Refinery
The Marathon refinery in Los Angeles. Courtesy of the company

How much do oil refiners in California earn? Only the owners of the state’s five refineries know that.

They control 96% of the gasoline sold in California, according to the California Energy Commission. But every driver in the state can find out how much refineries make if Senate Bill 1322the California Oil Refinery Cost Disclosure Act, is gaining ground in Sacramento.

California State Senator. Ben Allen, a Democrat from Los Angeles, said the bill would require refineries to report profits each month. It’s time for transparency, he said, because “pump costs in California are inflated compared to neighboring states,” but it’s a “big data black hole” on why. why it is so expensive.

“We call on the oil companies on behalf of California drivers: end the smoke and mirror games. Open your books and show the public your true costs of doing business,” Allen said.

Allen was joined at a press conference on Friday by consumer activist Jamie Court, chairman of Consumer Watchdog.

“California has been an ATM for oil refiners for too long,” Court said, “the pain at the pump is real. When truckers need to fill up $5 to $7 a gallon, we all pay more for the goods they haul to stores.”

The Court says consumers need to know that California’s fossil fuel industry “isn’t paying what it says it pays” for oil and “it’s time to pull back the curtain.”

the Western States Petroleum Association who represents the refiners has previously clashed with Court and his organization. Kevin Slagle, speaking on behalf of the association, dismissed the court’s claims as “theatrical” and said the main reason for the cost of gasoline at the pump is the high cost of the crude oil used to make it.

As for what the future holds, Slagle said, “Experts recognize that unforeseen events – as we see in Ukraine and around the world today – can have significant impacts.”

The Court argued that it is wrong for prices to rise when most oil is bought on long-term contracts at rates below the current market price.

“Whenever crude oil prices go up, gas prices go up, but oil companies don’t buy crude oil that day or they don’t buy it on the spot market,” he said. he declares. “They buy crude oil on long-term contracts. They pay much less than the current world price. »

The “big five” oil refining companies in California are Chevron, Marathon, PBF Energy, Phillips 66 and Valero. Consumer Watchdog said they sell gasoline at their own brand outlets for 30 to 40 cents a gallon above the price at which they sell the same gas at discounters like Costco and United Oil.

A California Energy Commission 2019 Report concluded that retail gasoline margins in California are higher than elsewhere in the United States.

Slagle blames California taxes and regulations. He said mandatory fuel-blend requirements, rising state taxes and regulations such as cap-and-trade are keeping prices high.

Jenn Engstrom, Director of Consumer Advocacy Group CALPIRG, said oil companies may blame the high costs on environmental protection, but that’s only a small portion of the costs Californians pay at the pump. “Especially now that there’s so much fluctuation with gas prices, it’s important that we have better transparency so we can call oil refineries if they raise prices unnecessarily,” she said.

Allen’s bill is then expected to be considered by the Senate Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee, chaired by San Diego State Senator Ben Hueso.

JW August is a San Diego-based broadcast and digital journalist.

Norman D. Briggs