ANCHORAGE — Alaska’s junior U.S. senator wants his constituents to graphically demonstrate the high price of gasoline in their state.
Democrat Mark Begich said Wednesday that he is asking residents to send in photos they’ve taken of prices at their gas stations’ pumps. He has already begun featuring them on an interactive map on his website.
“The rest of the country doesn’t understand what gas prices are like in Alaska, and Congress continues to stall when it comes to passing a real energy plan. So I’m asking Alaskans to help me tell the story,” Begich said.
The price of gasoline Wednesday was $4.23 per gallon at some stations in Anchorage, Alaska’s largest city and busiest port. But they were far higher in communities off the road system, especially in villages that cannot be reached by ocean tanker or river barge.
Begich’s website showed the price of gas in Anaktuvuk Pass, a village in the Brooks Range in northern Alaska, at $8.60 per gallon.
“No matter what time of year it is, Alaska’s cities pay more for fuel than just about anywhere in the lower 48, and rural Alaska pays some of the highest costs in the country year-round,” Begich said. “It’s time to tackle this problem.”
Begich said Congress must seek both short and long solutions to high energy costs.
He has introduced a measure to allow Alaskans to set aside pre-tax dollars to pay for gasoline and other energy expenses. The Family Account to Save on Transportation Act, or FAST Act, is modeled after medical savings accounts. The measure would allow employers to set up pre-tax transportation savings accounts.
“With gas prices already more than four dollars a gallon, the average price is more than 95 cents higher than this time last year,” Begich said in a speech last month. Gas is now above $4 per gallon in 13 states and Washington, D.C.
The measure, he said, would be designed to expire in two years so there was be no long-term burden on the federal budget.
Since January, the national average for a gallon of regular unleaded has risen 91 cents, or 30 percent, to $3.98.
The main reason for the hike is a 20 percent increase in the price of oil this year. Gas rose more than 30 cents in April as refinery problems led to a drop in supplies.