California’s oil czar on what’s plaguing gasoline prices

Source: By Wes Venteicher, E&E News • Posted: Monday, April 15, 2024

California gas prices are on the rise again as Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration mulls a cap on refiner profits.

California Division of Petroleum Market Oversight Director Tai Milder

Tai Milder, the director of the independent Division of Petroleum Market Oversight at the California Energy Commission, is investigating the state’s high gas prices. U.S. Department of Justice

SACRAMENTO, California — Tai Milder is at the center of California’s deliberations over how to deal with its perpetually high gasoline prices.

Milder, informally known as the state’s “oil czar,” was named by Gov. Gavin Newsom last year to lead the state’s investigation, which will inform whether it should impose a cap on oil refiner profits in order to reduce the perpetual gulf between California’s gas prices and the rest of the country’s.

With the summer driving season and the state’s more-expensive, less-polluting summer gasoline blend approaching, Milder and his new Division of Petroleum Market Oversight, an independent branch of the California Energy Commission, are looking for ways to tamp down price spikes.

It won’t be Milder himself making the decision on whether to penalize oil profits — it’ll be the broader, five-member CEC, which has said it intends to decide this fall. Consumer advocates are pushing for a decision sooner to kneecap the usual summertime price hikes; the industry is warning a penalty could backfire and drive prices even higher.