Air Resources Board disputes hidden gas tax notion

Air Resources Board disputes hidden gas tax notion »Play Video
FILE -- A woman pumps gas Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013, in Bakersfield, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX photo)

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) - Small businesses and consumers in California are concerned about what they are calling a "hidden gas tax" that could take effect in 2015. 

The idea comes from AB 32, which passed in 2006 and requires the state to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.

According to the California Air Resources Board, which is behind the law, they have set up a series of programs to address all the major sources of greenhouse gas emissions, sector by sector.

In January, transportation fuels will be added underneath that umbrella. 

"Transportation is the single largest source of greenhouse gases in the state," said Stanley Young, spokesman for CARB. "It comprises 30 percent of all of our greenhouse gas emissions."

At the start of the new year, transportation fuel suppliers will have to pay a fee for a permit to release those emissions into the atmosphere. According to Young, this is a cost for the industry, not necessarily the consumer.

"How each company decides that it will accommodate that additional cost into their business plan is entirely up to them," said Young. 

He said it is not a gas tax for consumers, but he said he can't speak to how it will realistically affect drivers. 

"Gas prices are very volatile, and it's difficult to predict how the cost of the AB 32 program will impact them," he said.

For Californians, who already pay the highest gas tax in the nation, any increase is not good news.

"It's expensive enough as it is," said Kevin Bruce, who lives in Bakersfield. "I can't even fill up my tank right now, so that's going to make it even harder."

Fellow Californian, Joseph Dandy, said he believes it would be a steep increase for a state that already pays so much.

"Additional taxes on the people is just additional finances out of our wallet, for something that's not necessarily our problem," Dandy said.

Young countered that the addition of this sector into the cap-and-trade program will actually benefit Californians.

"We believe that by the programs under AB 32, we are going to help move California away from its dependence on gasoline, to other fuels and to alternative and cheaper fuels," he said.

The CARB official also said that the money generated under the program is helping to fund incentives toward electric cars, public transportation, and a quarter of it will go to disadvantaged communities throughout the state.