Drivers Past “Tipping Point” On Gas Prices

Gas in Mass. is now 86 cents higher than just one month ago

With gas tax relief not favored by Beacon Hill Democrats, average prices at the pump in Massachusetts rose another 19 cents over the past week and analysts remain unsure how long the trend will continue.

AAA Northeast said Monday that the average price for a gallon of gas in Massachusetts is $4.35 on Monday, 86 cents higher than one month ago and $1.60 higher than one year ago. The Bay State’s average gas prices are 3 cents higher than the United States as a whole, according to AAA.

A survey AAA published last week found that $4 per gallon likely represents a “tipping point” for most motorists. About 59 percent of Americans the organization surveyed said they would change their driving habits or lifestyle if the cost for a gallon of gas hit $4, most of whom said they would choose to drive less.

Gas prices have skyrocketed to record levels, driven in part by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and resulting increases in the cost of crude oil. AAA Northeast said the price of crude oil recently fell back below $110 per barrel after peaking at $123 per barrel, which might relieve some of the steady pressure on drivers.

“It bears reminding that the cost of oil accounts for about 50% of what drivers pay at the pump,” said AAA Northeast Director of Public and Government Affairs Mary Maguire. “This war is roiling an already tight global oil market and making it hard to determine if we are near a peak for pump prices, or if they keep grinding higher. It all depends on the direction of oil prices.”

The Massachusetts House last week rejected a proposal from Republican lawmakers to suspend the state’s 24 cents per gallon gas tax until prices fall below $3.70 a gallon. Speaker Ronald Mariano called the proposal a “stunt,” while Revenue Committee Co-chair Rep. Mark Cusack said his panel is “looking at real relief for families, not political gimmicks.”

Republican Gov. Charlie Baker hinted earlier in the month he may explore gas tax relief but so far has not made a major push or weighed in on the House’s vote.

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