California Gas

5 pm yesterday; At noon, Supreme had been 4.99 at the same station

Want to give the Obama campaign even more heartburn than it has now?  How about putting California in play?

Seems farfetched, but then people outside of California might not have noticed that gasoline pump prices jumped as much as 30 cents a gallon yesterday.  That’s how much pump prices jumped between lunch and late afternoon here on the central coast; the figure is lower in the major metropolitan areas apparently.  It is not inconceivable that there could be old-fashioned shortages and gas lines by the end of the month.  Some stations are shutting down or limiting sales already.  Paging Jimmy Carter!

The sharp price spike is attributed to tight refinery capacity problems in the state (as a couple of refineries are offline), which is true, but not exhaustive, as Churchill once explained in a different context.  As I explained in “Bureaucratic Gas” in The Weekly Standard a few months ago, California has its own special blend of gasoline for environmental reasons that are now largely obsolete.  This means that California can’t use the gasoline blends sold in Oregon, Nevada, or Arizona, which means that a refinery shortage here can’t be remedied by the usual means of bringing in more supply from somewhere else.

But President Obama could order the EPA to waive the gasoline regulations, and allow out-of-state gasoline to be transported and sold in California, delivering at least 10 to 20 cents a gallon of price relief, and perhaps much more.  Oh, that’s right: Obama wants higher gasoline prices, so don’t hold your breath.  (Note: After Hurricane Katrina, the Bush administration waived the EPA’s boutique gasoline regulations to assure adequate supplies and stable prices while the Gulf Coast refineries got back up and running.)

Memo to GOP SuperPACs: why not place a few spots on TV in California telling people to “Call the White House: Tell President Obama to give us relief at the pump!”

By the way, I keep hoping the Left will say that high gas prices are an oil company conspiracy to hurt Obama’s campaign.  After all, Obama singled out ExxonMobil for attack in his debate—the first time I can remember a presidential candidate singling out a specific corporation for abuse ever.  I guess MSNBC is still in a funk; Chris Matthews is still wandering around saying “Where did Obama misplace his knife?!?”  Come on guys, this ought to be easy.

JOHN adds: Here is another photo, sent by a reader, taken at a suburban California location:

One wonders: what would it take for Californians to try to escape from the current hopelessness by voting for change?

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