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Thinking of a Staycation? Here’s What the Delaware Valley Has to Offer

As gas prices continue to hit record highs and sky-high airfares remain elevated, staycations are becoming an attractive summer vacation option for many Pennsylvanians.

Fifty-three percent of Americans say the price of gas will limit their travel plans, according to a survey by Harvest Hosts released in early May. That figure was especially high with older travelers. A Rasmussen Reports survey released last week also revealed 57 percent said gas prices are affecting their vacation travels.

If residents do choose a staycation, they would join a trend of more residents staying local for travel in recent years, local tourism officials said.

Rachel Riley, assistant vice president of communications at the Valley Forge Tourism & Convention Board, said the pandemic already has been increasing the number of staycations.

“During 2020, you could only really go local,” she said.

That trend is still elevated, Riley added. She says she thinks that is because people are now interested in exploring their backyard.

President and COO of Visit Bucks County Paul Bencivengo said despite increased interest in locals’ own neighborhoods, there is still more to see.

“I guarantee, there’s a new shop, bakery, something to do, that you haven’t seen before,” he said. “A lot of our partners used (COVID) to maybe do some upgrades, as well as even bring new programming onboard, and new exhibits.”

Nina Kelly, director of marketing and communications for the Chester County Conference and Visitors Bureau, suggested visiting lesser-known gems throughout the region.

“A lot of people don’t know all of greater Philadelphia is America’s Garden Capital,” she said. “There are a lot more gardens than just Longwood.”

With more than 30 gardens within 30 miles of the city, Kelly said visitors can feel a world away from home.

Other suggestions for activities in Chester County include visiting Baldwin’s Book Barn, a five-story bookstore home to more than 300,000 texts. Or travel over to West Chester to experience the American Helicopter Museum & Education Center, one of the few museums in the country dedicated to rotary flight.

Kelly also thinks the Brandywine River Museum of Art, featuring Wyeth family works, is a must-see for residents who want to understand the rich history the area has and don’t want to take it for granted.

For perfect family activities, Riley suggested the Elmwood Park Zoo, Legoland Discovery Center in Plymouth Meeting, and Arnold’s Family Fun Center in Oaks just to name a few. With the King of Prussia Mall, Philadelphia Outlets, and many main street business destinations across the area, there is no shortage of shopping options.

Riley added a summer savings pass is available for download for consumers to get exclusive savings at participating restaurants and attractions. There is also Crave Montco Month all of July, which Riley described as “restaurant week on steroids.”

And if you want to make it a real getaway, Riley said Montgomery County has 80 first-class hotels.

Bencivengo said residents can visit Upper Bucks for more outdoor activities, like at Lake Nockamixon, Ringing Rocks Park, and Van Sant Airport. Plus, there is access to main streets like Quakertown’s to satisfy consumer needs.

In Lower Bucks, visit the estate of William Penn at Pennsbury Manor, or see a show at the Bucks County Playhouse or Bristol Riverside Theater. Sesame Place is perfect for the family, while adults may prefer to explore the wide variety of wineries, distilleries, and breweries throughout the county.

And whether you prefer commercial options or boutique hotels and bed and breakfasts, there are a plethora of places to stay overnight.

By staying close to home, all three officials added you are not just saving money out of your own pocket, you are also helping local and typically small businesses survive. And with so much to offer, they think doing so is the perfect summer plan.

“This is affordable,” Riley said about vacationing in the area. “It’s a great location, easy to get to, but still tons of quality.”

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Vacation Drivers Hit the Road Amid Record-High Gas Prices

 As the school year ends and families head off on vacation, gas prices are hitting heights not seen since 2008.

“Adjusted for inflation, the real cost of a gallon of gas from July 2008 shoots up to $5.37 in today’s dollars,” said. According to AAA, the average price of unleaded gas hit an all-time high of $4.59 per gallon last Thursday. With inflation now hitting every sector of our economy, these rises in gas prices have been a hit many families can’t afford. Residents across the Delaware Valley are expressing their frustrations.

“I commute either 25 minutes to work or 30 minutes to school every day of the week, and ever since this rise in gas price, more and more money comes out of my pocket and into my tank,” said Elkins Park resident Eli Tomasic. “[these cost increases] have made budget increasingly hard to plan.”

The rise in gas prices has been enough to make many people alter their lifestyles. According to a survey conducted by Gas Buddy, 70 percent said their summer travel has been affected by inflation and high gas prices.

Another survey conducted in March by AAA found “of more than 1,000 U.S.-based travelers, 52 percent of them said they would take a family vacation during the summer – and 58 percent of those said they would adjust their itineraries if gas prices continued an upward trajectory and made it cost-prohibitive.”

As prices have continued to rise through April and May, many residents are trying their best to avoid its brunt.

“I find myself only filling my tank partially to avoid losing $50 bucks every time I need to fill up,” said Bri Bearden. “I used to not care about the price of gas, but lately I’ve been checking the prices of nearby stations every time I go.”

Some people are philosophic about the situation, but others see their livelihood eaten away.

“Even though gas has gone up $1 in the state in the last year, I haven’t personally found myself struggling at the pump,” said Abington resident Sean Dawson. “Even with gas being such a necessity, I personally haven’t worried much about the price, as I know I’m going to have to fill my tank anyway.”

Chester County construction company owner Tim Dilworth said, “We are a small residential renovation business. Our weekly gas costs have gone up by approximately $300. Our suppliers have almost doubled their delivery surcharge due to price of gas. Our subcontractors are all complaining about the distance of projects. The price of gas also impacts the cost of materials. Almost every product we are buying increases in cost almost every two weeks. It is becoming impossible to estimate projects due to material costs and other overhead costs skyrocketing. And, along with costs increasing there is a skilled labor shortage.”

Gas prices are rarely a simple issue. Many factors determine the price Americans pay at the pump. For example, Pennsylvanians have the second-highest state tax on their fuel at 58.7 cents per gallon and 75.2 cents per gallon for diesel. California is tops in gas taxes. As of July 1, folks there will pay 95 cents per gallon for gasoline and $102.01 per gallon on diesel.

On a recent trip to Japan, President Joe Biden said the high cost of gasoline is part of a “transition” away from fossil fuels. And Biden’s policies have reduced domestic oil production while the president asked OPEC to ramp up its production.

While higher gas prices might deter some people from traveling, Paul Bencivengo, vice president and COO of Visit Bucks County, said his organization is not seeing people canceling trips to one of the area’s most scenic tourist destinations so far.

“Bucks County’s top markets are Northern New Jersey, New York, and Philadelphia – all within a relatively short drive,” said Bencivengo. “As we monitor gas prices, demand remains strong for Bucks County. Year-to-date (January-April) 2022, hotel indicators show an increase of nearly 5 percent in overnight occupancy from 2021.”

He noted the group’s website has special officers for visitors.


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LIEBERMAN: Who NOT To Blame For High Gasoline Prices

Whenever the price at the pump increases, so does the finger-pointing, but much of the blame game over high gasoline prices is neither accurate nor fair and, most importantly, won’t lead to real solutions. Here are several false targets of America’s anger at record-prices:

1.  Gas Station Owners – Despite the big Exxon or Shell or other major oil company sign hanging above many of the gas stations where people fill up, most of these stations are franchise businesses. Proprietors set the price based on market conditions, including what their next gasoline delivery will cost them, not some secret phone call from corporate headquarters.

Ironically, gas stations may actually do worse in times of high pump prices, since they enjoy much bigger profit margins on the sodas, snacks, smokes, and other things motorists purchase than they do for gasoline. But at current gas prices customers have less money left over for extras.

2.  Oil Companies – Candidate Joe Biden repeatedly promised to curtail domestic oil drilling

for the sake of addressing climate change and started making good on that promise from day one.   But now he accuses the industry of holding back on supplies and has launched a  Federal Trade Commission investigation into the matter.

To be sure, if oil companies were the ones that had decided to halt new drilling on federal lands in Alaska (as well as the lower 48 and offshore) or refused to build the Keystone XL Pipeline and other needed infrastructure projects, the president might have a credible case of industry deliberately squeezing supplies in order to boost prices. But it is his own administration that did all these things.

3. Electric Vehicle Skeptics – Vice President Kamala Harris, Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, and others in the administration have touted electric vehicles (EVs) as a way to laugh your way past the gas station; and they have hinted that EV non-believers are part of the problem. But even with gasoline prices setting records, EVs still have major drawbacks of their own. This includes: sticker prices $15,000 or more above comparable gasoline-powered cars, relatively limited range, and long charging times. In addition, electricity prices are also headed up due to some of the same Biden administration climate change policies impacting gasoline prices. And reliability is growing issue. Anyone who has suffered through a power blackout lately will think twice about buying an EV. For these reasons,  EVs only sell to the extent they are heavily subsidized (up to $7,500 in federal tax credits, as well as several state incentives) and even then have captured less than 5 percent of the new vehicles market.

4. World Leaders – Vladimir Putin deserves a good share of blame for the price run-up in the weeks since the Ukraine invasion, but by then prices had already jumped by more than a dollar per gallon above the previous year. Furthermore, if domestic production wasn’t handcuffed by the Biden administration, the invasion would likely have a less severe impact as we are seeing.

5.  Donald Trump– Gasoline was cheaper when Trump was president, and he aggressively pursued an agenda of “energy dominance” that included several petroleum supply-expanding projects that have since been blocked by his successor. Nonetheless, that has not deterred some from finding orange-man culpability. The Trump-blamer rationales are understandably hazy, but they suggest that the former president contributed to closing the domestic oil spigot, initiated the federal spending increases that contributed to overall inflation, including gasoline, and facilitated Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Why none of this bad stuff happened until Biden took over is apparently just a coincidence.

If we can get beyond scapegoats, we can debate solutions. One such solution that should be crystal clear is making the most of the oil we have in the United States. Maximizing domestic oil production makes a lot of sense when the world is at peace and even more in times like these when it isn’t.

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High Gas Prices? Blame the ‘R’ Word — And It’s Not ‘Russia’

Talk about high gasoline prices often revolves around Russia, but energy experts say another factor is making an even bigger impact:


RINs, or Renewable Identification Numbers, are part of the federal government’s Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) system used to address carbon emissions.

“When refiners are not able to essentially generate enough fuel from the RFS they must buy or sell these credits,” Nick Loris, Vice President of Public Policy at Conservative Coalition for Climate Solution told Delaware Valley Journal. “If the refiners can’t comply by generating their own fuel, then the demand for these credits increases, and that increases the price of these credits anywhere from 30 cents to a few bucks.”

High gas prices are hurting the Biden administration politically. An ABC/Ipsos poll found 70 percent of Americans disapprove of how Biden is handling the issue, and the White House is reportedly looking at temporary changes to renewable fuel regulations to address the problem. According to White House press secretary Jen Psaki, the administration may allow the sale of gasoline with higher blends of ethanol this summer — so-called “winter blend”‘ — to keep supplies up and help bring prices down.

Loris thinks that temporarily waiving blending requirements for refiners could provide some relief.

“Spring is the time of the year where some of these refiners will shut down and switch from winter grades of gasoline to summer grades of gasoline,” he said. “There have been studies that have estimated that can add five to 15 cents per gallon, and while it’s a sensible regulation, it helps reduce smog, that temporarily reprieve of this regulation can help avoid an even higher cost increase at the price of the pump.”

Then there is the cost of the RINs themselves. Instead of a regulatory tool to help cap emissions or promote renewable fuel production, they have become a form of “energy bitcoin” with an intrinsic value of their own. According to the “Fueling American Jobs Coalition,” a group promoting reform of the RFS system, the price of RINs rose 1,250 percent between January 2020 and January 2022.

“It’s clear [RINs] has become its own phony market, much like carbon credit trading that is wrecking the European Union and its members,” Dan Kish, distinguished senior fellow at the Institute for Energy Research. told DVJournal. “The middle-men make all the money and the farmers who produce ethanol and consumers end up paying the price.”

“We’re spending more on RINs than to run six refineries—more than on all other operating costs combined,” said Brendan Williams with BPF Energy in a recent interview on WPHT radio.  “RINs are raising fuel costs, putting jobs and fuel supplies at risk.”

“There have been legislative ideas to cap the price or essentially cap it at 25 cents per RIN or 50 cents per RIN that would prevent against the cost fluctuation that we’re seeing as a result ….Ultimately, I think the better solution would be to waive the requirements altogether and do away with this mandate altogether and, again, allow the market to dictate how much ethanol and biofuels we put into our fuel supply.”

Those costs make it more difficult to open or operate refineries in the U.S., which makes it harder to increase domestic energy supplies. And, says Jim Snell, business manager for Philadelphia-based Steamfitters Local 420, if the last few months have taught us anything it is that energy is the economy.

“In the moment we’re in, elected leaders should be reaffirming their commitment to domestic energy production and refining capacity,” Snell told DVJournal.

“Critics cheered it as a victory, despite the very real consequences then and now, and they continue to oppose refineries because they don’t fit their new “green” image for our region,” said Snell. “Imagine what would happen today if we lost our remaining merchant refiners like Monroe Energy in Trainer and PBF Energy in Paulsboro — both of which remain vital but underappreciated.”

Not only would we lose thousands of jobs, but Snell said the global environmental problems would be worse.

“The demand for the output that these refineries produce won’t change,” said Snell. “What will change is where the product is refined — somewhere overseas, where there are lax environmental laws.”

Congressman Donald Norcross (D-N.J.) has urged the Biden administration to fix the broken RINs compliance scheme.  “The administration in Washington talks about giving the middle class a shot. What better example of the middle class getting the shaft than these RINs?”

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