OPINION

Capital highlights: Gas prices edge over $3 per gallon across state

GARY BORDERS

The price of a gallon of gasoline tops $3 across much of the state, which is up more than $1.20 from a year ago, according to AAA. The average price for regular gas in Texas stood at $3.03 per gallon Sunday as crude oil prices continue to creep up, closing above $80 per barrel. Crude oil price is one of a quartet of factors that influence the cost of gasoline, reported The Dallas Morning News. The cost of refining, distribution expenses and taxes also affect the price at the pump. 

“Things have really picked up steam in terms of national gas prices in the last two-and-a-half to three weeks,” Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum at fuel savings app GasBuddy, told the newspaper. “The national average had been stable for a long period of time, but suddenly the price of oil surged, and the price of gasoline followed along with it.”

Gary Borders

Cheaper prices can be found, although it takes some searching. Gasbuddy.com reported prices hovering around $2.45 per gallon at locations in Dallas, Houston and Round Rock, but these appear to be exceptions to the prevailing price increases. 

Scott appointed Texas Secretary of State

John Scott has been appointed Texas Secretary of State, in which he serves as the state’s chief election officer. The veteran Fort Worth attorney served previously as a deputy attorney general for civil litigation when Abbott was attorney general. He subsequently served as the chief operating officer of the state Health and Human Services Commission, with a $50 billion biennial budget and 56,000 employees.

Scott briefly represented former President Donald Trump in a lawsuit challenging the 2020 election results in Pennsylvania, along with state Sen. Bryan Hughes. Both withdrew from the case a few days later, reported the Texas Tribune.

The secretary of state slot has been vacant since May, when Rita Hughs resigned after the state senate declined to consider her confirmation. Since the Legislature isn’t scheduled to meet again until 2023, Scott will serve in an interim capacity until then.

DSHS launches COVID-19 vaccination push

The Texas Department of State Health Services has launched a new statewide COVID-19 media campaign to encourage Texans aged 12 and over to get vaccinated against COVID-19. The campaign features Texans describing in their own words why they were initially hesitant to get the vaccine and later changed their minds. 

“Any Texan who has not been vaccinated against COVID-19 because of safety or other concerns can be assured that the authorized vaccines are safe and effective,” said Dr. John Hellerstedt, DSHS commissioner. “The data gathered shows the benefits of vaccination far outweigh the risks of rare side effects. Most importantly, vaccination is proven to greatly increase our protection against severe COVID-19 illness, hospitalization and even death.”

One ad features a woman who contracted a moderate to severe case of COVID-19. That experience led her to change her mind and get vaccinated following her illness to try and prevent a reinfection that could make her sick again or threaten those around her, according to a DSHS news release.

Another ad features a man who resisted vaccination because of his distrust in the safety of the vaccines and of those who encouraged their use. But as millions across the state, nation and globe have become fully vaccinated and adverse events remain very rare, he reviewed the data and has since been vaccinated.

Meanwhile, the number of new COVID-19 cases in Texas continues to drop, with 30,276 reported by the Coronavirus Resource Center at Johns Hopkins University in the past week. That is down nearly 75% from about a month ago. New deaths also dropped to 1,267 in the past week, reflecting national trends as the delta variant wave appears to be waning. State hospitalizations of lab-confirmed COVID-19 patients dropped to 4,382 as of Sunday, down two-thirds from a month ago.

Texans who are fully vaccinated topped 15.3 million, according to DSHS, with more than a million having also received an additional dose.

TPWD predicts a productive hunting season

It could be a fruitful season for Texas waterfowl hunters with millions of ducks in the Central Flyway.

“Duck production in prairie potholes of North Dakota, South Dakota, Saskatchewan and Alberta were reported to be below average due to extensive drought this summer,” said Kevin Kraai, TPWD Waterfowl Program Leader. “With that said, there are still millions of ducks in the Central Flyway, and we are on the heels of multiple excellent breeding seasons for ducks over the last few years.”

Wetter-than-average conditions during the first half of the year are leading to more surface water for ducks and geese. Hunters should purchase their 2021-2022 hunting license before hitting the field.

In addition, TPWD biologists says deer hunters can expect an excellent 2021-2022 white-tailed deer season. Late spring rains alleviated drought conditions at the end of 2020, leading to accelerated growth of weeds and flowering plants attractive to deer. The Edwards Plateau, at the crossroads of Central, South and West Texas, has the highest deer population in the state.

The general season runs from Nov. 6 through Jan. 2 in the North Zone and Jan. 16 in the South Zone. A special youth-only gun deer season is set for Oct. 30-31 and Jan. 3-16. Visit tpwd.gov for more information.

Gary Borders is a veteran award-winning Texas journalist. He published a number of community newspapers in Texas during a 30-year span, including in Longview, Fort Stockton, Nacogdoches and Cedar Park. Email: gborders@texaspress.com.