Some politicians in Massachusetts and Rhode Island are calling on their state governments to reduce or eliminate the gas tax in response to rising prices since Russia invaded Ukraine a couple weeks ago. That’s an awful idea and political pandering at its worst.
If politicians are concerned about the impact of high fossil fuel prices on consumers right now, they ought to be looking to increase fuel assistance to low-income families so that they can be warm for the next few weeks. Heating oil prices have breached $5.00 per gallon in many places. A 200-gallon fill-up would cost a whopping $1000.
Targeting aid to those who need it the most – for perhaps one more oil delivery this heating season – is something states can do for far less money than giving a break to people who drive, including those who have chosen to drive expensive SUVs.
Evidently the invasion of Ukraine at the hands of Putin is a test of political leadership all over the world. We’re seeing that Rhode Island candidates for higher office are exploiting the crisis in their search for votes. Fortunately, an effort in the Massachusetts House of Representatives to cut the gas tax was defeated. A victory for common sense.
Bear in mind that the Mass. gas tax is 24 cents per gallon and the Rhode Island gas tax is 34 cents per gallon, compared to an overall average price of over four bucks a gallon. If you’ve been watching the news, you know that retail heating oil prices are swinging far more than 24-34 cents from one week to the next in reaction to market gyrations.
What we are experiencing in recent days with the world oil market is akin to riding a huge roller coaster with a blindfold on. At any given moment, we don’t know how far up or down, or how fast, the coaster is heading. We don’t even know how long the ride is going to last. Just observing how much the market is fluctuating should remind us all how absurd our dependence on oil has become. We need leaders who can address immediate problems in ways that support long-run goals, or at least don’t send us off in the wrong direction.
We have alternatives to fossil fuels, like offshore wind. Above, MA Representative Jeffrey Roy, ELM President Elizabeth Henry, and MA House Speaker Ronald Mariano on a tour of the Block Island Wind Farm.
This is 2022 and we have alternatives to petroleum. We should be moving as fast as possible to embrace those options while also protecting people who desperately need help at the moment. Cutting the gas tax is not the answer.