Just as our world is slowly reopening, sharply rising gas prices threaten to put a stake through the heart of the upcoming tourism season. That could have a devastating impact on Cape Cod and other local economies that rely heavily on tourism dollars during the summer months.

AAA Northeast says powerful winter storms knocked 26 U.S. refineries offline, contributing to the skyrocketing prices at the pump. In a press statement, AAA's Mary Maguire says gas prices could stabilize and even come down a bit as those refineries go back online, probably by the end of the month. However, Maguire cautions that the upcoming Atlantic hurricane season could drive prices up again, depending upon the severity of it all.

The Biden Administration's foreign and energy policies could lead to higher gas prices. Also, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker has already endorsed an increase in the gas tax, part of the Transportation Climate Initiative he signed with Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Washington, D.C. Even if prices decline when the refineries go back online, consumers could still face higher prices for the summer driving season, which begins in May.

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The pandemic has wreaked havoc on the economies of many Massachusetts communities, including New Bedford. The tourism season was devastated by COVID-related cancellations last year. The New Bedford Half Marathon and the Feast of the Blessed Sacrament, both big moneymakers, were canceled. The Zeiterion Theater had to close, and restrictions on dining were brutal to local businesses.

To rebound from the crippling pandemic, New Bedford and Massachusetts need a solid tourism season. We couldn't prevent the pandemic, and we can't stop hurricanes, but we can prevent the government from inflicting more pain through higher taxes.

Urge Governor Baker to reconsider raising the gas tax and insist that the Legislature refrains from any new taxes and fees that could negatively impact tourism this year.

Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at barry@wbsm.com and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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