Santa Monica, CA — The Santa Monica-based Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights today called upon Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to break his silence about the high cost of gasoline in California and ask Shell Oil to keep open its Bakersfield refinery, which is set to close in October and supplies 2% of the state’s gasoline.
“As Memorial Day weekend approaches, the price of gasoline in California continues to be at least 25 cents higher than in the rest of the nation,” FTCR President Jamie Court wrote to Schwarzenegger today. “Make a statement about keeping the Shell refinery open. If ever there was a time to use your clout for Californians, this is the moment, before $3 per gallon gasoline becomes a reality.”
The letter from FTCR President Jamie Court can be read at http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/utilities/fs/fs004307.php3. It notes that Schwarzenegger is one of the few public officials in California not to challenge oil companies over their reduction of refining capacity in California. And Court states Schwarzenegger’s call yesterday for greater conservation is hypocritical given his advocacy of Hummers and his refusal to address the crucial point that the run up in prices is driven by oil refiners’ intentional reduction in supplies.
The letter also points out that Schwarzenegger may not have acted yet due to his close ties to one of California’s big five oil refiners, Chevron. The Governor’s chief of staff Pat Clarey is Chevron‘s former lobbyist, Chevron contributed $121,200 to Schwarzenegger’s campaign committees, and gave $500,000 to the state Republican party. ConocoPhillips has contributed $46,000 and Occidental Petroleum has given $50,000.
“Your only statement on the high price of gasoline, released yesterday, is that consumers should ‘flex their power at the pump’ by taking steps such as keeping tires inflated to the recommended pressure, using air conditioning selectively, and observing posted speed limits,” writes Court. ” Governor, you are hardly the most appropriate voice for conservation given that you drive the least fuel efficient vehicle on the planet and led the drive to bring the Hummer to the popular market. More importantly, your silence on the imbalance of power between refiners and motorists leading to price gouging of motorists on the West Coast is one reason oil companies continue to rob motorists blind at the pump. You have refused to flex your own power to force refiners to play fair, keep sufficient inventories and maintain existing refining capacity.”