After several years of relatively agreeable gas prices, the surge has begun again and where it stops, nobody knows.
The cost of a gallon of gas nationally has risen to $2.90, according to AAA, with Massachusetts prices just a tick behind at $2.89. That’s an increase of 22.6 percent from a year ago and while it’s not in the stratosphere of the all-time high of $4.09 back in July 2008, it’s been a slow steady march toward the $3 level. Just in time for the Memorial Day weekend getaways.
But as we’ve seen, there is little that changes people’s driving habits. An extra $1,300 a year – the prediction of analysts of what the average family will pay with the price hikes – will likely not deter them anyway, given the paucity of reliable alternatives.
The price increases affect more than just the average driver, with the increase in fuel baked into the cost of delivering goods and, by extension, higher consumer prices. Depending upon how one looks at it, that’s good news and bad news. Good: The economy is rolling along, which is fueling the demand. Bad: Wages are fairly stagnant so it drains household budgets.
One thing that will likely get minimal chatter is the state of the public transportation system in Massachusetts and the need to improve it to entice would-be drivers onto trains and buses. The MBTA continues to have widespread problems meeting demand at rush hours with its aging fleet. Gov. Charlie Baker and transportation officials have been touting the purchase of new equipment but delivery will take time.
While the commuter rail didn’t make as much news this winter as it has in the past for breakdowns, cancellations, and delays, there were still enough to sour those who aren’t committed to the train from making it a regular ride regardless of the season.
It’s been 45 years since the oil embargo kicked off the upward climb in prices that rarely abates. There’s been some attempts at fuel efficiency for vehicles and weaning the country off reliance on foreign oil. The spike in prices will likely fuel support, at least among conservatives, for Trump’s push to open up the Arctic and offshore waters to drilling. But it will also put a spotlight on attempts by the administration to ratchet back efficiency standards for carmakers.
Little of the debate, however, will touch on what we need to do to improve the crumbling transit systems across the country and pump more money into those alternatives to driving. It’s not just because of America’s love affair with their cars because it’s actually not a love affair. It’s all-out dysfunctional co-dependence.
But to get the kind of support for public transportation that would require those who use it least to contribute is a Herculean effort. And to convince those same people that taking public transportation, walking, or biking is good for their wallets, the environment, and their all-around health has proven to be next to impossible.
As Winston Churchill once said, “It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.”
Senate President Harriette Chandler hosts an environmental town hall in Worcester with two of her colleagues to push for passage this session of legislation that would establish carbon pricing and far more aggressive goals for renewable energy. (Telegram & Gazette)
Attorney General Maura Healey has either filed suit or signed on to legal challenges against the Trump administration 26 times. (WBUR)
Rep. Stephen Kulik said resistance to building a new natural gas pipeline into New England is strong in the House. (CommonWealth)
Joe Battenfeld mocks a Senate budget amendment filed by Sen. Patricia Jehlen that would follow the lead of a recent Federal Election Commission ruling and allow candidates in Massachusetts to use campaign funds to pay for child care costs. (Boston Herald)
A Herald editorial calls Sen. Jamie Eldridge’s effort to advance a budget amendment that would establish some “sanctuary state” policies in Massachusetts “an improper and idiotic use of the taxpayers’ time and resources.”
A Lynn Item editorial hails the approval of a $90 million, 332-unit residential complex on the Lynnway that could very well be the spark for redevelopment of the entire Lynn waterfront.
In the first of many steps to follow, the Boston Conservation Commission approved Mayor Marty Walsh’s plan for a Long Island Bridge despite testimony from a range of Quincy officials opposing it. (Patriot Ledger)
The CEO of Liberty Mutual, David Long, whose 5,700-square-foot manse abuts the lone public golf course on Nantucket, is fighting against plans to build a 3,900-square-foot dormitory on golf course property that would provide housing for 22 seasonal employees. (Boston Globe)
A Brockton city councilor has proposed an ordinance similar to one recently passed in Boston that would allow people to register to vote when they sign up for a library card, buy a parking pass, or register for classes at the high school. (The Enterprise)
President Trump, ramping up his animus toward immigrants, called those who cross the border illegally “animals.” (Washington Post) Bristol Sheriff Thomas Hodgson, at a gathering in Washington of law enforcement officers supporting partnering with federal officials to round up and detain immigrants, said “people are dying every day at the hands of illegals,” though he offered nothing to support his statement. (Herald News)
The New York Times has a lengthy and detailed look at the early days of the Russia election meddling investigation, dubbed Crossfire Hurricane, that shows FBI agents took pains not to let anything out that Trump and his campaign aides were under scrutiny so as to avoid charges of tilting the election.
A revised financial disclosure filing shows Trump paid his attorney Michael Cohen more than $100,000 last year as an apparent reimbursement for hush money paid to a porn actress for her silence despite the president’s previous assertion he knew nothing about the payment. (New York Times)
In a sharply-worded — though veiled — rebuke, former secretary of state Rex Tillerson told graduates at the Virginia Military Institute that leaders who “seek to conceal the truth” by promoting “alternative realities” are a threat to democracy, clear references to the president he served under for a rocky 14 months. (Washington Post)
The Senate voted to overturn the FCC’s repeal of net neutrality, but the measure faces very uncertain prospects in the House and at the White House. (NPR)
Rachelle Cohen, the former editorial page editor at the Boston Herald, jumps ship to the op-ed pages of the Boston Globe and rips the “sclerotic” seniority system that rules the Democratic ranks in the US House. (Boston Globe)
Sam Meas, a former close friend and campaign advisor of Rep. Rady Mom of Lowell who is now challenging Mom for office, says the rep attacked him at a party. (Lowell Sun)
The three candidates running for district attorney in Berkshire County squared off in a debate, and subtle differences appeared between the two private practice attorneys vying for the job (Andrea Harrington and Judith Knight) and the interim DA Paul Caccaviello. (Berkshire Eagle)
Evan Falchuk, who previously ran as a third-party candidate for governor, joined the advisory board of Voter Choice Massachusetts, which supports ranked choice voting. Other members of the board include former state treasurer Steve Grossman and Pam Wilmot of Common Cause.
Expect a slow start to the state’s retail marijuana industry when the first outlets open in July. (Boston Globe)
UMass President Marty Meehan tells lawmakers that many more college closures are coming and the chairman of the Mount Ida College board said her institution faced a “perfect storm of failures.” (State House News) State Sen. Nick Collins filed a budget amendment that would bar any state funds from being used for debt service or other costs related to acquisition of a private college by a public higher ed institution. (Boston Herald)
Northeastern University rejected a suggestion from US Rep. Seth Moulton to move its marine science center from Nahant to Lynn. (Lynn Item)
The attorney for a Bristol-Plymouth Regional Technical School student charged with making a bomb threat says his client has been bullied and taunted with chants of “ISIS” since his return to school. (Taunton Gazette)
An Eagle-Tribune editorial is wishy-washy on the issue of “lunch shaming,” opposing the practice but liking the outcome if students do pay for their meals.
A female African-American former executive at Steward Health Care is suing the for-profit hospital chain, alleging she was subjected to racial and sexual harassment by top officials in the company. (Boston Globe)
Twelve nursing homes in Massachusetts have yet to disburse raises to health care aides that were appropriated by the state two years ago to boost pay for the low-wage workers. (Boston Globe)
A Globe editorial backs a proposal from the advocacy group Transportation for Massachusetts to offer toll discounts to commercial vehicles during off-peak hours.
In filing with federal regulators, Exelon sets its price for keeping its money-losing Everett power plants running and the New England power grid operator warns that if the facilities shut down it may have to impose rolling blackouts. (CommonWealth)
Union official Phil Trombly endorses Bay State Wind, one of three companies vying for a state contract to supply offshore wind power. (CommonWealth)
Newton officials captured a black bear, who apparently was looking for more privacy than the woods offered. (MetroWest Daily News)
If legalized sports betting becomes widespread, with gamblers able to wager on every play, pitch, or possible move in game, we could get to a point where “the outcome of games is almost beside the point,” says one gaming expert. (Boston Globe)
Wynn Resorts says its $68 million clean-up of the Mystic River adjacent to its Everett casino project cost more than twice the $30 million originally estimated for the job. (Boston Globe)
Everett Mayor Carlo DeMaria has paid criminal lawyers nearly $130,000 from his campaign account as the FBI is reportedly investigating him for allegedly strong-arming developers to hire more union workers. (Everett Leader)MEDIA
Two-thirds of Boston Globe stories about Dorchester over a one-year period cast the neighborhood in a negative light, according to a review by a local website. (Dorchester Post)