CARSON ( — Southland truck drivers and local business leaders Thursday staged a protest over what they say is a hidden gas tax under California’s “cap and trade” program.

Supporters of the “Tank the Tax” effort warn that consumers and small businesses could see an increase of 12 cents or more at the pump beginning in 2015, when the California Air Resources Board is set to move fuels under the cap-and-trade to be traded on the new California-specific carbon market.

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KNX 1070’s Ron Kilgore reports opponents under the program, companies must buy emissions “allowances” to continue to sell gasoline at the pump – and push prices higher in the process.

Harbor Trucking Association President Mike Johnson called for state lawmakers to step in before an estimated $2 billion hike in the cost of doing business takes effect.

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“This is a hidden, unfair tax,” Johnson said. “Low-income families, (the) business community, everybody’s gonna be impacted by this.”

Senate Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, who proposed a carbon tax on motor vehicle fuels in February, told the Los Angeles Times that changes in the cap-and-trade program could “bring spikes and wild fluctuations in gas prices.”

Critics have compared the program to failed electricity deregulation in the early 2000s that resulted in rolling blackouts for thousands of Californians and was said to have a “disturbingly similar structure to Enron’s former playground.”

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As part of his budget released in January, Gov. Jerry Brown called for an $850 million investment in cap-and-trade auctions to support efforts to reduce greenhouse gases.