Fueling frustration: Gas prices surge to highest level since 2012

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  • Danny Riviera of Northampton gets gas at the Shell station on Pleasant Street in Northampton on Friday. “My wallet certainly does (notice the difference),” Riviera said, referring to the recent increase in gas prices. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Chrystal Candelaria of Florence gets gas at the Pride station spiked, Candelaria said she wouldn’t think twice about traveling to Hadley or even Greenfield three times a week. These days, she said she plans out her travel more. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • The Shell station on Pleasant Street in Northampton on Friday, Nov. 26, 2021. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Patrons fill up at the Pride station on King Street in Northampton on Friday, Nov. 26, 2021. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • The Shell station on Pleasant Street in Northampton on Friday, which displays the cost for a gallon of gas. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 11/26/2021 4:34:59 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Danny Riviera has wanted to buy a new vehicle for a while, but with surging gas prices, the Northampton man said a pickup truck may not be in his future.

While gas prices have been rising steadily, this holiday weekend they topped off at an average of $3.42 per gallon of regular unleaded gasoline — the highest level in Massachusetts since 2012, according to a report from the American Automobile Association. Last year during the same time, the statewide average for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline was $2.06.

“My wallet certainly does (notice the difference),” Riviera said while pumping gas at the Shell station on Pleasant Street in Northampton. “I own my vehicle, but I’ve been wanting a pickup truck, you know, like a Toyota Tacoma. But (based on these current gas prices), I may be contemplating something else.”

Nationally, consumers paid an average of $3.40 per gallon of regular gasoline this week, according to a report released by the U.S. Energy Information Administration. This price is 62% higher than last year and is the highest pre-Thanksgiving price since 2012, the report shows. Gas prices are 82 cents higher than at the same time in 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic.

But like many other consumers, Kevin Torchia of Easthampton and Susan North of Florence both noted that between work, errands and daily routines, they couldn’t exactly curb their traveling.

“It’s frustrating,” said Torchia, who was fueling up at the Pleasant Street Shell Station in Northampton on Friday. “But what are you going to do?”

Regular gas at the Shell station was $3.43 per gallon at that point. A number of drivers with out-of-state plates were fueling up alongside Torchia, including Chris Bostic of Maryland, who said he was headed home after visiting the area for the holiday. He and his family had planned the trek up north for a while and despite increasing prices, wasn’t about to alter his plans.

Down the street at the King Street Cumberland Farms, gas was $3.29. Across the street at the King Street Pride Station, gas was listed as $3.31 per gallon when consumers use the company’s PrideStar Debit, which boasts that it saves consumers 10 cents per gallon.

“It helps,” said Chrystal Candelaria of Florence, who had just finished up some Black Friday shopping. “Money is tight.”

Before this price jump, Candelaria said she wouldn’t think twice about traveling to Hadley or even Greenfield three times a week. These days, she said she’s more cautious and plans out her travel more.

Amid the rising price at the pumps, Boston-based conservative fiscal watchdog organization Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance challenged Gov. Charlie Baker to apply his idea for a two-month sales tax holiday to the state’s 24 cents per gallon gasoline tax.

Earlier this year, Baker suggested using excess tax revenue to pay for a two-month sales tax relief for shoppers.

Massachusetts collects approximately $50 million in gas tax revenue per month, said Paul Diego Craney, spokesman for the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance.

“Governor Baker should do everything he can to provide relief for motorists who have to drive to work, pick up their kids from school, and make long journeys over the holidays to see family and friends,” Craney said in a statement. “With the state swimming in cash, his administration could temporarily not collect the state’s gas tax. This is what he should be thinking about as millions of Massachusetts residents travel over the holidays.”

On Tuesday, President Joe Biden ordered 50 million barrels of oil released from America’s strategic reserve with the aim of bringing down the cost of gasoline as well as other costs, in coordination with other major energy-consuming nations including India, the United Kingdom and China.

“While our combined actions will not solve the problems of high gas prices overnight, it will make a difference,” Biden promised in remarks at the White House. “It will take time, but before long you should see the price of gas drop where you fill up your tank.”

The government will begin to move barrels into the market in mid- to late December. Gasoline usually responds at a lag to changes in oil prices, and administration officials suggested this is one of several steps toward ultimately bringing down costs.

This story includes reporting from The Associated Press. Emily Thurlow can be reached at ethurlow@gazettenet.com.


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