THE BUZZ— OIL OPTICS: California is on track to see a drop in gasoline prices in the coming weeks, just as the world’s leading oil producers announced plans yesterday to cut production by 2 million barrels per day.
It’s not so much that California is insulated from OPEC’s influence, but rather that the factors driving the state’s high gas prices in the first place are expected to calm down in the near future. California’s supply has been squeezed over the last month due, in part, to six oil refineries undergoing maintenance. But experts and analysts say the state’s $6.43 per gallon average may be the peak, as refineries come back online, more supply is imported from out of state and California makes an early transition to winter blend gasoline.
“I think, by next week, we will have dropped probably 50 cents a gallon… I think we’re gonna see it turn around very quickly,” said Severin Borenstein, faculty director of the UC Berkeley Energy Institute at Haas. Another analyst, Patrick De Haan, noted that California’s spot prices fell $1.25 per gallon on Wednesday, a likely harbinger of lower prices at the pump.
With that drop in prices on the horizon, California drivers aren’t likely to notice any increase from OPEC’s decision, Borenstein said, which could take weeks to show up at gas stations anyways. The California Energy Commission said Wednesday the OPEC decision is equivalent to about a 1 percent cut in supply, and expected to have a “relatively modest impact on the price of gasoline in California.”
Nevertheless, concerns about what (or, perhaps, whom) is driving high gas prices continues to be a focus of the political class. Democrats across the country are worried about how it could affect their chances in the midterms, and Republicans in California are using the high prices as a line of attack in battleground races.
Gov. Gavin Newsom last week called for the Legislature to pass a windfall tax on oil companies, which, he said, need to provide an explanation as to why gas prices are so high and should be held responsible for “fleecing” customers. His office yesterday again pointed out that the price for consumers rose in September despite the price of crude oil falling. California Energy Commission Chair David Hochschild similarly put out a statement Wednesday saying refinery issues don’t fully explain the high cost of California gasoline.
Passing a windfall tax (which some lawmakers tried and failed to do this year) would require Newsom to either call a special session or wait until January when the Legislature reconvenes, which would delay relief that much further.
The prospect of a special session also presents plentiful pitfalls for Democrats. Passing a tax in an election year would potentially give more cannon fodder to their Republican opponents. Then there’s the issue of speakership politics — Assemblymember Robert Rivas (D-Salinas) is still very much vying for Speaker Anthony Rendon’s job, and those dynamics could make it difficult for the caucus to unite and pass legislation under a time crunch.
BUENOS DÍAS, good Thursday morning. Opponents of Proposition 1, the initiative to enshire abortion rights in the California Constitution, are expected to gather at the Capitol this morning. Speaking of conservative causes, Republican donors are gathering in Orange County tonight for a fundraiser scheduled to feature NRSC chair Sen. Rick Scott and U.S. Senate candidates Mehmet Oz and Adam Laxalt.
Programming Note: We’ll be off this Monday for Indigenous Peoples Day but will be back in your inboxes on Tuesday.
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QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Let’s be clear: Selling drugs is not legal. Using drugs out in the open is completely unacceptable.” San Francisco Mayor London Breed once again pledging to crack down on open drug use and sales on Wednesday, via the Associated Press.
TWEET OF THE DAY:
WHERE’S GAVIN? In San Francisco with other West Coast leaders to sign a climate agreement.
— “For Pelosi and McCarthy, a Toxic Relationship Worsens as Elections Approach,” by the New York Times’ Annie Karni: “The relationship between Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the man who is most likely to succeed her should Republicans win control of the House in next month’s elections is barely civil.”
— “Bodies of kidnapped Merced County family found. ‘Our worst fears have been confirmed,’” by the Merced Sun-Star: “Merced County Sheriff Vern Warnke confirmed on Wednesday night that the bodies of four kidnapped family members were found.”
PROP PREP — “Addiction experts fear the fallout if California voters legalize sports betting,” by the Los Angeles Times’ Mark Kreidler: “Since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2018 that states could legalize betting on sports, California — with 40 million people and numerous professional teams — has been the great white whale, eluding gambling companies and casino-hosting tribal communities.”
— “Candidate’s financial history under scrutiny in California controller’s race,” by the Los Angeles Times’ Taryn Luna: “The only Democrat in the November contest for California controller is facing scrutiny over the recent suspension of a business license and the foreclosure of her San Francisco condo more than a decade ago.
KEEPING IT LOCAL — “Health care workers union is using ballot measures to remedy low wages amid a workforce shortage,” by CalMatters’ Ana B. Ibarra: “California’s largest health care workers union is no stranger to taking its fights to the ballot — both statewide and locally. In the past five years, it has pitched to voters initiatives on issues ranging from staffing at dialysis clinics to price caps for specific health care providers.”
— “Mike Garcia fights to keep his seat in Congress while Christy Smith seeks a winning message,” by the Los Angeles Daily News’ Marianne Love: “A third time could be a charm for Democratic challenger Christy Smith in the upcoming U.S. Congressional District 27 race against incumbent Rep. Mike Garcia, R-Santa Clarita.”
RECALL BUZZ — “Group begins recall against Sacramento Councilman Loloee, says he doesn’t live in district,” by the Sacramento Bee’s Theresa Clift: “The city launched an inquiry into Loloee’s residence in early July after The Sacramento Bee reported that another family lives at the home where Loloee is registered to vote and that neighbors to the property said they had not seen the councilman there.”
HISTORY LESSON — “Republicans could tilt Assembly speakership feud,” Opines Dan Walters for CalMatters: “An ambitious member of the state Assembly declares that he has enough votes to become speaker and demands that the incumbent step down. The current speaker refuses and the contenders spend months trying to get enough of their supporters elected to settle the dispute.”
— “Racism’s impact on health care in California,” by Axios’ Sabrina Moreno: “Nearly a third of Black Californians reported being treated unfairly in the health care system because of their race, according to a report from the California Health Care Foundation.”
SALT IN THE SALTON — “As Salton Sea faces ecological collapse, a plan to save it with ocean water is rejected,” by the Los Angeles Times’ Ian James: “By moving desalinated seawater across the desert, they say, California could stop its largest lake from shrinking and growing saltier and could restore its once-thriving ecosystem.”
— “Alex Villanueva’s Unlikely Rise To Power — 7 Takeaways From Our New Podcast About The Sheriff,” by LAist’s Francisco Aviles Pino: “LAist Studios’ new podcast, Imperfect Paradise: The Sheriff, charts Villanueva’s unlikely rise to power and his controversial tenure.”
WATER POLITICS — “Meet the California farmers awash in Colorado River water, even in a drought,” by NPR’s Dan Charles: “A few hundred farms in the southern tip of California, along the Mexican border, may hold the key to saving the drought-plagued Colorado River from collapse.”
— “New California law wants to help minority state workers get promoted. Here’s how it works,” by the Sacramento Bee’s Wes Venteicher: “An ambitious bill that aimed to make promotions more accessible for minorities and women in California state government was winnowed down to just a few provisions by the time Gov. Gavin Newsom signed it last month.”
POTUS POLLING: President Joe Biden’s approval rating among Californians is slightly up from early August, according to a new poll released yesterday from the UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies. Fifty-two percent of California voters now approve of his job performance overall, while 43 percent disapprove.
When it comes to ongoing investigations regarding former President Donald Trump, 46 percent of California voters think he’ll likely face criminal charges — that number is, unsurprisingly, much higher among Democrats (61 percent) than Republicans (20 percent). Of all voters, 49 percent think it’s unlikely Trump will face criminal charges.
— Biden’s Operation Warp Speed revival stumbles out of the gate, by POLITICO’s Adam Cancryn and Erin Banco: As Covid’s Omicron wave ebbed earlier this year, top Biden administration health officials began developing a plan to fortify the nation’s defenses against the next potentially dangerous coronavirus strain.
FRAUD ON THE RISE — “Zelle fraud is on the rise—and many victims are denied refunds,” by Ars Technica’s Ashley Belanger: “By 2021, Zelle was processing nearly twice the number of payments as Venmo, but as the volume of Zelle payments increased, so did rumors about increased fraud.”
— “‘Rust’ criminal probe will continue, D.A. says, after Alec Baldwin settles lawsuit with family of cinematographer killed,” by the Los Angeles Times’ Summer Lin, Anousha Sakoui and Meg James: “Nearly a year after cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was killed on the film set of “Rust” in an incident involving a prop gun fired by producer and actor Alec Baldwin in New Mexico, the Hutchins family and Baldwin have reached an undisclosed settlement in a wrongful-death lawsuit.”
THE CRITICS & THE CANINES — “‘This signals the collapse’: New S.F. fancy dog restaurant ignites debate,” by the San Francisco Chronicle’s Elena Kadvany.
— “What Will Happen to a Scofflaw, His Composting Toilet and Two Acres of Land?” by the New York Times’ Achy Obejas.
— “Nicole Mann Becomes First Native American Woman to Go to Space,” by the Wall Street Journal’s Joseph Pisani.
— “The ‘floating cube’ tower for S.F. looks great — but don’t believe what you see,” Opines John King for the San Francisco Chronicle’s.
— “Marc Andreessen Compares California to Rome Circa 250 A.D.,” by Bloomberg’s Lizette Chapman.
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George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism