High gas costs hurt California drivers as refiners rake in huge profits. These charts explain

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There’s lots of debate and heated rhetoric over California’s high gas prices, but there are a handful of factors most agree at least contribute to the problem.

California is a high tax state, and that extends to the excise tax slapped on a gallon of gas. The tax, which is adjusted annually, pays for planning, constructing and maintaining roads and mass transit systems.

In June, the tax rose from 51.1 cents to 53.9 cents per gallon, second only to Pennsylvania. Republicans have called to suspend the tax or at least not continue indexing it to inflation, but the billions of dollars it generates for infrastructure is considered vital.

The state is famously the smoggy car capital of the nation, too, which means refiners must produce a more expensive version of cleaner-burning gas during the hotter months.

There are estimates that the summer blend might cost as much as 15 cents a gallon more than the winter blend, which adds up when topping off but helps with things like breathing and combating climate change.

But those two costs are consistent and don’t produce the infuriating spikes that the oil industry typically blames on refinery downtime due to either maintenance or repairs — but which critics allege are pretexts for raising prices.

The state wouldn’t be subject to such woes, though, if not for another undisputed fact: California is a gas island with no major interstate pipelines, leaving it reliant primarily on in-state production and more costly trucks and tankers. At the same time, the number of refineries cranking out gasoline has dropped to 10 from almost 50 a few decades ago.

That means when one refinery is down, expect to feel the pain.

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