I thought of my fellow Californian Energy Secretary Steven Chu last week, when I paid $4.89 a gallon in Gilroy for regular gas — and had to wait in line to get it. The customers were in near revolt, but I wondered against what and whom. I mentioned to one exasperated motorist that there are estimated to be over 20 billion barrels of oil a few miles away, in newly found reserves off the California coast. He thought I was from Mars.
California may face the nation’s largest budget deficit at $16 billion. It may struggle with the nation’s second-highest unemployment rate at 10.6 percent. It will soon vote whether to levy the nation’s highest income and sales taxes, as if to encourage others to join the 2,000-plus high earners who are leaving the state each week. The new taxes will be our way of saying, “Good riddance.” And if California is home to one-third of the nation’s welfare recipients and the largest number of illegal aliens, it is nonetheless apparently happy and thus solidly for Obama, by a +24 percent margin in the latest Field poll. The unemployment rate in my hometown is 16 percent, the per capita income is $16,000 — and I haven’t seen a Romney sticker yet.
Shortly before taking office, Secretary Chu, remember, quipped that he would like to see American gas prices rise to European levels — presumably $9 or $10 a gallon — to discourage driving and thereby lower our carbon footprint. If $50 for half a fill-up is any indication, California is over halfway toward achieving Chu’s dream. If green bicycles are the ultimate aim of our central-planning regulators, then they are making headway. I’ve never seen so many new rural bike riders, though most of them out here in the San Joaquin Valley have a bad habit of riding on the wrong side of the road.