I'm glad to be back in Oklahoma.
While gasoline prices in the state are higher than most consumers would prefer, they are down from one year ago and about $1 per gallon lower than in California.
My family and I spent last week in San Diego. We had a great time, but I'm glad to be home.
One thing I will not miss from that trip is the price of gasoline.
Last week, I filled up a rental car for $4.17 a gallon. At that price, one tank of fuel cost more than two days' rental charges.
Gasoline prices in Oklahoma usually are among the lowest in the country, largely because of our relatively low tax rates and our proximity to refineries and pipelines.
California, on the other hand, almost always boasts the highest gasoline prices in the country.
One reason is taxes. At 48.6 cents a gallon, California has the second highest state gasoline tax in the country, slightly below New York at 49 cents a gallon.
Oklahoma has the fifth lowest tax rate at 17 cents a gallon.
The national average is 31.1 cents, in addition to a federal tax of 18.4 cents per gallon.
Another reason California almost always tips the scale on gasoline prices is the expensive and complicated blends of gasoline the state requires for environmental reasons. Summer blends are even more complicated and expensive than winter blends.
More than 32 million cars are registered in California, and the state has battled with smog and other air quality issues. The fuel blends are designed to ease pollution.
While the cleaner-burning fuel is more expensive, the blends have been especially costly in recent weeks.
Only 12 of the country's 141 refineries are equipped to make the gasoline required in California. Four of those 12 went offline at the same time last month for various types of maintenance.
Refinery outages are common, and they often lead to localized price spikes.
Oklahoma and several surrounding states are experiencing such an uptick this week.
Our price spike has added nearly 11 cents to the state average while the national average has slipped 4 cents.
California, however, earlier this month experienced a 10-cent increase while the rest of the country enjoyed a 20-cent drop.
The Golden State's localized shortage was much more costly than ours because one-third of the refineries that can supply the state were shut in. Those refineries are starting to return to full operation so prices are stabilizing.
In Oklahoma and much of the rest of the country, refinery shut-ins can cause price increases, but fuel can be moved from other areas without too much difficulty.
Whatever the reason, I'm glad we're not paying that much here.
I've never been so thankful to see the signs at gas stations around town beginning with a “3.”