Lower gas prices are a welcome respite

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In what appears to be a contradiction, gasoline prices are plummeting while funds from gasoline sales going into the Sportfish & Boating Trust Fund are rising. And that’s good for boating.

Gas is selling for $2.81 per gallon this week around my neighborhood. That’s a 44-month low, according to AAA. It means I’m paying a whopping 89 cents less than the high of $3.70 per gallon last April 28. Just last week, the average price dropped in 48 states and Washington, D.C., and the weekly drop exceeded a dime in 23 of those states and D.C.

Nationally, drivers are currently saving an average of more than 60 cents per gallon compared to the 2014 high. The average price is already under $3 per gallon in 17 states and more are following. If you’re in Missouri, you’re paying the nation’s lowest average of $2.77 per gallon, a price not seen in the Show Me State since 2010.

But the real story here is the broad economic ramifications of lower gas prices. Topping the list, every1 cent drop in the national average, assuming it sustains itself for a year, frees up more than $1 billion in additional consumer spending annually. At today’s average price, it means consumers would have $60 billion more to spend in the next 12 months. That’s a real economic stimulus.

It assumes, of course, that gas prices stay where they are for next year. Could they? Many experts are predicting there won’t be any significant rise in the near term. But could they even be lower?

Yes, according to Nicholas Loris, an economist and Heritage Foundation fellow who recently authored “5 Policies That Would Make Gas Cheaper” in The Daily Signal. There are, he contends, definite policies Congress and the Obama Administration could implement that would give consumers even more money to spend.

First, lift some drilling bans and approve the Keystone XL pipeline. In the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge, more than 10.4 billion barrels of crude are waiting, as are billions more in some coastal waters. Lifting such bans could reduce gasoline costs by an estimated 8 cents per gallon and even create up to 1 million additional jobs by 2018.

Second, get rid of the ethanol mandate in the broken Renewable Fuel Standard. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the ethanol mandate alone will actually increase the price of gas by 13 cents to 26 cents per gallon by 2017. Never mind that turning food (corn) into ethanol also pushes up food prices for consumers.

Next, do away with the Jones Act. Basically, it requires goods shipped over water between two American ports to be transported on an American ship. This law inhibits competition and drives up transportation prices. According to the International Energy Agency, repealing this law could cause gas prices to fall by 15 cents.

Last, get rid of the crude oil export ban. Currently, exporting U.S. crude is prohibited. Yet we will soon be a larger producer of crude than even Saudi Arabia. Lifting this ban would reduce the price of gas another 8 cents or more.

Meanwhile, the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund has enjoyed a 4.9 percent increase in funds this year over last for a total of $624.9 million. The lion’s share of this increase comes from $328 million paid by boaters at the pump, according to the National Marine Manufacturers Association. Commonly called the Wallop-Breaux fund, the trust fund serves as critical funding for state and national recreational fishing and boating programs, including recreational boating safety programs; vessel pumpout grants; water and boating access infrastructure programs; the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation; fisheries management; habitat conservation; and aquatic resource education programs; among others.

Up for reauthorization next May in the 2015 transportation funding bill, it is unquestionably the single most valuable federal legislation for boaters and anglers. Accordingly, the boating and fishing industries will be in high gear to push for total reauthorization next spring and dealers can expect to be asked to weigh in on the effort.

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