No relief in sight as gasoline costs soar

As $4 per gallon looms, some look to N.H.

Julio Barbosa, a taxi driver filling up yesterday, said he now spends $65 in gas for a 12-hour shift. Julio Barbosa, a taxi driver filling up yesterday, said he now spends $65 in gas for a 12-hour shift. (Matthew J. Lee/ Globe Staff)
By Lisa Kocian and Sean Teehan
Globe Staff | Globe Correspondent / April 24, 2011

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Gasoline prices rose about 11 cents per gallon for regular unleaded in Greater Boston over the past week, bad timing for those traveling this Easter weekend.

Today also caps the end of a busy travel week, including the observance of Passover, which began Monday, April 18, at sundown, and the last gasp of school vacation week for many.

In the Boston metropolitan area, the average price of regular unleaded was up to $3.87 yesterday, compared with $3.76 a week earlier, according to AAA, which tracks fuel prices daily and posts them online.

The highest recorded average price for the area was $4.09 per gallon of regular unleaded on July 9, 2008, according to AAA.

As the $4 mark approaches, pump prices have become a popular political topic.

President Obama used his weekly address yesterday to talk about rising gas prices, and on Friday, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley warned gas stations against price gouging. The day before that, New Hampshire’s House leadership proposed temporarily cutting the state’s gas tax by 5 cents.

Sitting in her car at a Mobil station on Main Street in Salisbury, Helen Smith, 67, said high gas prices mean she will be celebrating Easter today without her son and his family, who traditionally make a 60-mile trip to her Salisbury home for the holiday.

’’My son lives in Stoughton, so he’s staying home,’’ said Smith, a Salisbury resident.

Lisa Fortenberry-Spaloss of Dorchester said that driving around for Easter shopping has sapped her budget, but she is fighting back.

“We definitely compare prices between stations,’’ she said yesterday while filling up at a Shell station on Morrissey Boulevard in Dorchester. “You have to cut back — less on the road, more on the T.’’

It cost Fortenberry-Spaloss $76 to fill up her sedan yesterday, at a price of $4.09 per gallon of regular unleaded.

Coakley addressed rising gas prices in her official blog on Friday, reminding consumers and businesses that it is against the law to take advantage of “market emergencies’’ to charge “unconscionably high’’ prices. She advised using websites and smartphone apps to research gas prices before heading to a pump.

On Thursday, New Hampshire’s House leadership released a plan to temporarily cut the gas tax by 5 cents.

The cut, which would last until the end of June, was proposed by House Speaker William O’Brien and House Majority Leader D.J. Bettencourt, who directly targeted Massachusetts towns in the proposal announcement.

“If someone gases up their car in say Methuen, Lawrence, or Haverhill at $3.95 a gallon, when they could conceivably cross our border and take advantage of this decrease and pay as little as $3.70 a gallon in some places, that would translate into a significant savings,’’ said Bettencourt in a press release.

But New Hampshire’s governor opposes the cut.

“This is nothing more than a political gimmick, and it will not provide relief at the pumps,’’ said Colin Manning, spokesman for Governor John Lynch, in a statement e-mailed to the Globe. “What it will mean is less money for the people of New Hampshire to repair our roads and maintain the safety of our bridges.’’

Reached by phone, Bettencourt, a Republican, said he hopes the Democratic governor reconsiders, and if not, that the House can override a veto.

So what does he say to his political brethren across the border, representing, say, Haverhill, Methuen, or Lawrence?

“I would encourage them to keep their taxes nice and high,’’ he said.

Rob Campbell, 37, of Amesbury, said he would try to take advantage of New Hampshire’s cheaper gas tax if it goes through.

’’I actually go there three times per week, so if I time it out right, I can just fill up there,’’ Campbell said. “Any chance to save money.’’

Although Vincent Russo, 72, of Newbury, lamented paying more for gas, he said he would not cross the state border.

’’The problem with shopping out of state is you’re cheating your own state,’’ Russo said. “You’re probably best off shopping locally if you live locally.’’

In his weekly address, Obama repeated his support for developing clean, renewable energy sources. He also said the government needs to continue pursuing “safe and responsible’’ production of oil domestically.

In addition, US Attorney General Eric Holder last week launched a task force to root out “cases of fraud or manipulation in the oil markets that might affect gas prices,’’ said Obama, who also called for an end to $4 billion in annual taxpayer subsidies to oil and gas companies.

Relief can’t come fast enough for area drivers.

Filling his tank last night at a Shell gas station, where regular gas was priced at $4.09 per gallon, 29-year-old taxi driver Mohamed Jama said increased gas prices are affecting his livelihood.

“We used to go around before; now we sit at cab stands,’’ Jama said at the station on Massachusetts Avenue in Roxbury. “You spend most of the money on gas. We don’t make any money.’’

Arthur Downey of North Quincy, who was buying gas yesterday afternoon in Quincy, was more blunt.

“You don’t want to know what I think,’’ he said. “Beep, beep. That’s what I think about gas prices. That’s me beeping out the swears.’’

Globe correspondent Christopher J Girard contributed to this report. Lisa Kocian can be reached at Sean Teehan can be reached at

Correction: Because of a reporting error, an earlier version of this article misstated the date that Passover began. This year, Passover started Monday, April 18, at sundown.