Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, believes that Gov. Jay Inslee wants to increase gasoline prices as part of the governor's environmental agenda.
"For his policies to be successful, he needs high costs at the pump. He definitely wants gas prices at $4 a gallon," Ericksen said after discussing environmental matters — including Inslee's proposals to shrink the state's carbon emissions — at a Washington Policy Center forum in Bellevue on Jan. 7. Ericksen is chairman of the Washington Senate Environment, Energy & Telecommunications Committee, and the lead Senate Republican on environmental issues.
Currently, Washington's gas prices for regular hover just below $2 a gallon in many parts of the state. The price was roughly $2.70 a gallon in parts of Seattle . Ericksen said gasoline was $1.99 a gallon in his hometown of Ferndale.
During the forum, Ericksen told attendees that Inslee's carbon emission proposals would increase gasoline prices to $4 to $4.50 a gallon. Previously, GOP legislators have contended that the governor's proposals would increase gas prices by more than $1. After the forum, Ericksen said Inslee needs the high gasoline prices to discourage driving in Washington in order to decrease carbon emissions. And he said high gas prices would boost Inslee's efforts to expand biofuels in Washington, contending biofuels need a $4-a-gallon petroleum-based gas price to become competitive.
Inslee spokesman David Postman responded to Ericksen's allegations in an email. "The senator is wildly off in his estimates — as surely he knows from the very public work that's been done on this question. The analysis conducted by the Office of Financial Management on the governor's market-based carbon charge system determined that gas prices could increase by 12 cents a gallon due to the program, or about 4 percent. His policy doesn't tax gasoline or require a price increase. It would be the decision of the oil companies to determine how much, if any, of these costs they choose to pass on to the consumer. As to the ridiculous questioning of motives, that doesn't warrant a response."
Inslee's plan calls for roughly 130 of Washington's biggest polluters to pay for permission to exude specific amounts of carbon emissions, which scientists have linked to global warming.
Republican legislators have frequently contended that Inslee's charges on polluters — including the state's five oil refineries — will increase their operating costs, which will be inevitably passed on to consumers.
Inslee's approach is expected to raise $1 billion a year. He has called for that money to be divided into several chunks, including $400 million a year going to transportation projects to replace potential gas tax hikes. The governor wants another $380 million annually to go to education with the state's court-ordered improvements on student-teacher ratios to be the most likely recipient. Another $108 million would go to pay for a currently unfunded working families tax credit program with checks going to roughly 450,000 low-income families. The remaining money, around $100 million, would go to businesses competing against out-of-state and foreign firms that don't face the same carbon-pollution restrictions.
Ericksen criticized how Inslee proposes to allocate the carbon emission revenue, saying that the governor's concept more than a year ago called for recycling all of the carbon emissions revenue to businesses competing with out-of-state and foreign companies that don't face the same pollution charges.
Meanwhile, the implications of another controversial Inslee concept — installing a low carbon fuel standard on some the state's gasoline pumps — won't be laid out until after the 2015 legislative session is underway and the state Department of Ecology has studied that proposal more thoroughly.
Inslee's proposals will likely surface as bills in the Democrat-controlled Washington state House, where a version of the governor’s plans will likely be passed before moving to a Republican-dominated Senate. Ericksen said Inslee's proposal would receive full hearings in his committee.