REGION — In a scene reminiscent of the oil embargo in 1973 when American cars piled up for miles as drivers tried to buy gas, a political statement was made at two North County gas stations on Feb. 5.
A gallon of unleaded gas at the Shell station at 2509 Palomar Airport Road went for just $1.99, while gas at the O’Brien Mobil in Encinitas, 310 Encinitas Blvd., went for $2.49 per gallon.
In Carlsbad, cars were stacked up on eastbound Palomar Airport Road and even down Yarrow Drive, about one-half mile west. The Lowe’s parking lot, meanwhile, was congested and chaotic until employees were able to control the overflow.
Both stations participated in the protest after gas prices exploded in November when the Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017 was implemented by the state of California.
“It is everybody’s responsibility to make a statement,” said Shell station manager Mark Vader. “Just don’t let things happen.”
Under what is known as the “gas tax,” unleaded gas jumped 12 cents and diesel 20 cents per gallon, which is why former San Diego Councilman Carl DeMaio spearheaded the protest. A message left with DeMaio was not returned.
DeMaio, who is chairman of Reform California, a conservative political action committee and radio host on KOGO: 600 AM, is working to place the tax on this year’s ballot in hopes of repealing the measure.
The effort had numerous volunteers lobbying for signatures to put his petition on this year’s ballot. Many customers gladly put pen to paper in hopes voters will repeal the tax, which is estimated to raise $52 billion for road repairs, new highway lanes and other infrastructure projects throughout the state.
“We did it for the sole purpose of bringing awareness to the repeal of the gas tax,” Vader said. “Nobody had a chance to vote on it, and it was pretty much shoved down our throats. The money was directed to the (state’s) General Fund.”
However, the cost being added to residents is becoming overwhelming, he added. He said the station lost money with the promotion, but it was worth it due to the media coverage and signatures gathered to certify the petition.
In addition, he said another promotion is likely to happen later this year.
Vader said people from all over the county waited up to two hours to buy gas. Admittedly, he said, many people came just for cheap gas.
“There are a lot of people that are passionate about this but couldn’t participate yesterday,” Vader said. “We were already one of the highest gas-taxed states in the country. Now, we are the second highest.”
Carlsbad resident Eva Polome waited 90 minutes to fill up and said it was worth the wait. She also signed the petition and said legislators in Sacramento must find new ways to fund projects without raising taxes.
Polome works as a nanny and said her paycheck is being gouged by taxes, making it more difficult for her to afford rent and other necessities.
“It’s too much,” she said. “We pay taxes for everything. It’s getting so hard. We cannot live that way. I work so hard, six days a week and I struggle to pay my bills. It’s becoming so hard to make a living here.”
Car registration is also included in the act, with costs increasing between $25 and $175 based on value. In addition, “zero-emission” vehicles after 2020 will cost an extra $100 to register.
Steve Puterski covers Carlsbad and Vista. For tips or story ideas, contact him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @StevePuterski.