Tough-talking Gavin Newsom backs down from prior Big Oil rhetoric after hearing

California Governor Gavin Newsom tries to look tough and loves to talk tough, but when it comes to actually holding “greedy” Big Oil companies accountable for what he insists is price-gouging, it turns out he is less of a people’s pitbull and more like a yapping chihuahua in a really slick suit.

In the fall, Newsom announced he would stop Californians from “getting ripped off” by oil companies via a “windfall profits tax” that would return money back to residents.

(Video: YouTube)

But, as the Sacramento Bee reports, “the outlook for any kind of penalty against the oil industry looks increasingly uncertain.”

Newsom’s administration announced on Wednesday plans to pass the matter off to a watchdog group that has yet to be established within the California Energy Commission so it could decide how best to handle the state’s soul-crushing gas prices.

According to The Bee, it’s “a move that could delay the implementation of his original proposal for months, if not indefinitely.”

“Depending on the agency’s evaluation and rulemaking process, that may or may not include a price-gouging penalty,” the paper explains, and it’s a far cry from the aggressive stance Newsom took just five months earlier.

The Bee continues: “The revisions come a few weeks after a hearing in which state Democrats and energy market analysts expressed uncertainty about the right strategy to address California’s high gas prices.”

Perhaps the Democrats should start by reading a Dec. 2022 report from the Hoover Institute, which asked, “Why Are Gas Prices So High In California?”

“It all boils down to supply and demand,” Hoover determined. “California’s gasoline supply has plummeted, reflecting California’s stricter regulations and higher taxes. And supply will drop even further in the future—much further, because California is banning the sale of new gasoline-powered cars by 2035.”

“The industry’s time in California is limited, and the oil-refining industry is behaving as any industry would in comparable circumstances, by transitioning its operations away from gasoline to activities that will prove to be more profitable in the long run,” the report continued. “And as supply falls further, much higher gasoline prices will become a way of life for Californians, at least until they are all in electric vehicles.”

In other words, if state Democrats want to know how best to handle the high gas prices, they should probably look at the so-called “green” legislation they and their governor are constantly pushing.

Despite a total lack of self-awareness and what is clearly a pivot from his original proposal, Newsom issued a statement claiming that California was “making major progress with the Legislature to hold Big Oil accountable for fleecing Californians at the pump.”

“With a growing coalition representing hundreds of organizations and local leaders backing our proposal to impose strong and effective oversight measures on oil companies, the momentum is on our side to get this done for California families,” Newsom’s statement read, according to The Bee. “What we’re asking for is simple: transparency and accountability to drive the oil industry out of the shadows.”

The amended measure was the result of the administration working with independent experts and members of the legislature, said Newsom’s chief of staff, Dana Williamson, who added that the revised plan is “stronger from where we started.”

Thrown into the legislation are new provisions that “enable state officials to gain more insight into the inner workings of the state’s complex oil and gas market,” The Bee reports.

The paper continues:

Under Newsom’s amended proposal, the California Energy Commission would receive funding to stand up a new oversight group. It would monitor the oil and gas market and commence a rule-making process to decide how the state should move forward on a penalty or any other proposed regulations to address California’s high gas prices. It was not immediately clear how long such a rule-making process may take.

The new watchdog agency would be given subpoena power and could refer potential violations to Attorney General Rob Bonta for prosecution.

To help with its work, Newsom’s proposal will include a handful of provisions aimed at helping the agency look under the hoods of California’s largest oil companies to get a more complete picture of the factors driving up prices at the pump. Those include requirements for refiners to report any planned or unplanned maintenance events, which are known to disrupt the market and contribute to price spikes. Other provisions would require information about the sale of gasoline on the spot market and agreements with retail gasoline stations.


Not everyone in the state legislature is ready to jump on board Newsom’s bandwagon.

Assembly Republican Leader James Gallagher was quick to voice his opposition.

“If Democrats give unelected bureaucrats the authority to impose this new tax,” he cautioned in a statement, “they will be responsible for the shortages, rationing, gas lines and price spikes that come with it.”


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Melissa Fine


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