Carpe Diem

Chart of the day: The Iowa Electronic Markets odds of Dems losing Senate have increased from 20% last year to 95% now

iowaThe chart above shows the history of market quotes for the Iowa Electronic Markets contract “2014 Senate Control Market” back to January 2013. Between January and June 2013, the odds for the Democrats to lose control of the Senate after the November 2014 mid-term elections were only about 20%, and were as low as 15% in May 2013 (see red line in chart). After a lot of volatility in the second half of last year, the odds of the Democrats losing the Senate increased and stabilized at around 60% between March and July of 2014, before gradually rising over the last three months to the current all-time contract high of 94.8% this week.

Carpe Diem

If only 12% of campus sexual assaults get reported, then only 1 in 32 women at Ohio State are sexually assaulted, not 1 in 5

Assuming that only 12% of campus sexual assaults at OSU are reported.

osuAssuming that 1 in 5 women at OSU are assaulted over 4 years.

osu1

In May, I wrote a CD post titled “Using White House claim of under-reporting, only 1 in 34 women at Ohio State are sexually assaulted, not 1 in 5.” The analysis in that post was used by syndicated columnist George Will in an op-ed (“Colleges become the victims of progressivism“) that appeared in several hundred papers around the country, including the Washington Post on June 6. Here’s George Will’s reference to my May 9 blog post:

The administration’s crucial and contradictory statistics are validated the usual way, by official repetition; Joe Biden has been heard from. The statistics are: One in five women is sexually assaulted while in college, and only 12 percent of assaults are reported. Simple arithmetic demonstrates that if the 12 percent reporting rate is correct, the 20 percent assault rate is preposterous. Mark Perry of the American Enterprise Institute notes, for example, that in the four years 2009 to 2012 there were 98 reported sexual assaults at Ohio State. That would be 12 percent of 817 total out of a female student population of approximately 28,000, for a sexual assault rate of approximately 2.9 percent — too high but nowhere near 20 percent.

George Will’s column generated a lot of controversy, especially from women’s rights activist groups and a group of US senators, and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, one of the largest newspapers in the Midwest, dropped Will’s syndicated column following the outburst of criticism. None of the other approximately 449 papers nationwide that subscribe to Will’s bi-weekly columns dropped him. Washington Post Editorial Page Editor Fred Hiatt defended George Will and his column, saying it “was well within the bounds of legitimate debate.”

My original post and George Will’s column were both based on OSU’s campus crime data from 2009-2012. Now that Ohio State University has just released its Annual Campus Security Report for 2014, updated data for the years 2010-2013 are displayed in the top table above. From my previous post in May:

In a January 2014 report titled “Rape and Sexual Assault: A Renewed Call to Action” (which led to the creation of the “Task Force to Protect Students From Sexual Assault” headed by Biden), the White House made the following two statements:

White House Statement 1. Sexual assault is a particular problem on college campuses:1 in 5 women has been sexually assaulted while in college.

White House Statement 2. Reporting rates for campus sexual assault are also very low: on average only 12% of student victims report the assault to law enforcement.

There’s a huge, irreconcilable statistical problem here. Using actual reported crime statistics on sexual offenses at almost any US college and applying the White House claim that only 12% of campus sexual assaults actually get reported, we have to conclude that nowhere near 1 in 5 women are sexually assaulted while in college. Alternatively, if the “1 in 5 women” claim is true, the percentage of sexual assaults that don’t get reported to the campus police would have to be much lower than 12%. In other words, the claims that the White House uses don’t work together and they therefore both can’t be simultaneously correct.

Here’s an updated analysis of sexual assaults at the Ohio State University, summarized in the top table above. Over the most recent four-year period from 2010 to 2013, there were 104 reports of “forcible sexual offenses” to the OSU’s Department of Public Safety, which included incidents that allegedly took place on campus, in university residence halls, on non-campus properties including fraternity and sorority houses, and on public property adjacent to or accessible from the campus. Using the White House claim that only 12% of campus sexual assaults get reported, there would have been 763 unreported forcible sexual offenses at OSU during that period, bringing the total number of sexual assaults (reported + unreported) to 867 (see top table above).

The Columbus campus of OSU has a total female student population of about 28,000. Dividing the 867 estimated sexual assaults over a four-year period into the 28,000 OSU female students would mean that only 3.1% of OSU women, or about 1 in 32.3, would be sexually assaulted while in college. Certainly that’s still too high, but not even close to the White House claim that one in five (and 20% of) female students are sexually assaulted while in college.

Further, these calculations make the assumptions that: a) 100% of the 104 forcible sexual offenses at OSU from 2009-2012 were male on female incidents (and none were female on male, male on male, or female on female), b) none of the 104 reported offenses were filed falsely or later retracted (see recent example here of a campus sexual assault that was falsely reported and later retracted), c) all of the 104 reported cases involved OSU students and none were reported by OSU faculty or staff. If any of those three assumptions don’t hold perfectly, the 3.1% figure above would be even lower, and the 1-in-32.3 ratio would be even greater.

Alternatively, we could ask the question: For the “1 in 5 women” claim to be true at OSU, what level of under-reporting would support that claim based on the actual reported assaults over the last four years? If one of every five of OSU’s 28,000 female students had been sexually assaulted from 2010 to 2013, there would have been 5,600 sexual assaults during those four years – or 1,400 sexual assaults every year and almost 4 every single day of the year. For that to be true, fewer than 2% of the actual sexual assaults would have been reported, and more than 98% would have to go unreported.

Bottom Line: From a political standpoint, using the totally implausible statistic that “1 in 5 women” are sexually assaulted while in college certainly gets a lot of attention. The “1 in 32 women” statistic found at Ohio State University over the most recent four years, though not as attention-grabbing as “1 in 5,” are probably pretty representative of college campuses around the country and much closer to the truth than what the White House is claiming. And for the “1 in 5 women” claim to be true, it would imply an unbelievably low reporting rate of less than 2% for campus sexual assaults. That would be almost 53 actual sexual offenses that take place on campus for every one that gets reported), which is an under-reporting rate so low that it must be insulting to women. Women and men attending college today, their parents, their college administrators and professors, and society in general, are all much better served by the truth about college sexual assault than by Team Obama’s misleading, exaggerated, and false claims about “1 in 5 women will be sexually assaulted while in college.”

Carpe Diem

Falling oil and gas prices are unambiguously good for the US economy, could save consumers $83 billion over next year

gaspricesoilOver the last six months, the average retail price of a gallon of gas has fallen by 62 cents, from $3.71 per gallon in late April to $3.09 per gallon currently, according to GasBuddy.com (see blue line in chart above). That’s almost a 17% decline in prices at the pump, and have followed a 22% decline in oil prices over that period, from about $105 per barrel in August to about $82 per barrel currently (see brown line in chart above).

How does that fall in retail gas prices translate into savings for consumers and households? The EIA estimates that Americans consume an average of 368,510,000 gallons of gas every day, so every one cent decline in the price of gas saves consumers $3.685 million per day, and $1.345 billion per year. Therefore, the 62 cent decline in gas prices since April will save consumers more than $83 billion over the next year, compared to the amount that would have been spent if prices stayed at $3.71 per gallon. On a per household basis, that would translate to an annual savings of more than $700 on average for every one of America’s 118 million households.

Bottom Line: For every additional penny that prices at the pump continue to fall, we can think of that as an additional $1.345 billion annual “tax cut” for consumers and alternatively as a $1.345 billion “economic stimulus” for the US economy. And therefore, those lower oil and gas prices are “unambiguously good for the US economy,” as Larry Kudlow pointed out in a recent commentary, here’s an excerpt:

One of the absolutely stupidest things I have heard in recent weeks is that the recent drop in oil prices is bad. Serious people on financial television are saying lower oil prices are a signal of worldwide economic collapse. Here at home that translates to recession, deflation, a profits collapse, and rising unemployment.

But the recent $20 drop in crude oil is an unambiguously good thing for the American and world economies. Unambiguous.

As I understand the lower-oil-prices-are-bad argument, the shift to around $80 a barrel from $100 a barrel will somehow close down the American energy revolution and destroy all the new jobs and related infrastructure services that have fueled our recovery.

Nonsense. I spoke with a CEO who is literally at the cutting edge of the horizontal-drilling and hydraulic-fracturing revolution about the so-called “profit break-even point,” or the marginal cost of producing the next barrel of oil. He told me it averages between $50 and $60 a barrel. And a new report from Citigroup energy analyst Edwin Morse argues that oil has to fall to $50 or less to fully halt shale-production growth.

More important: Virtually all consumers and producers will benefit from lower energy costs. Households could save as much as $100 billion because of today’s lower fuel costs. Business fuel savings will also be substantial. The result is a much more competitive U.S.

All these factors will increase U.S. economic growth, not reduce it. Basically, the fracking revolution has delivered a powerful and positive supply shock to the economy. It means that more output increases real growth and reduces inflation for any given increase in nominal GDP — the exact opposite of what we saw in the 1970s.

Let me help all those analysts who have lost their minds in this stock correction. We’re witnessing a big outward move of the energy supply curve. By nearly doubling our oil output in recent years, it’s surprising the oil-price break hasn’t come sooner. It has very little to do with falling demand.

Finally, a political message: Falling energy prices are so good for the economy that a new Republican Congress, in its first 90 days, should put a bill on President Obama’s desk authorizing the Keystone Pipeline, opening federal lands to energy development, and ending oil export restrictions. Totally pro-growth. Let the GOP dare the president to veto it.

Carpe Diem

Video Saturday

1. In the video above, Milton Friedman explains how the essential notion of a capitalist society is voluntary cooperation and voluntary exchange, and the essential notion of a socialist society is fundamentally force.

2. In the video above, learn how the world’s poorest people suffer and die from environmentalism.

Carpe Diem

Quarterly spelling/punctuation rant on the misuse of it’s

It’s time for my quarterly spelling/punctuation/grammar rant (see my last one in July) on what I think must be the most common spelling/punctuation/grammar/orthographic mistake in the English language — the misuse of it’s (or its’) for its — illustrated by the examples below collected from CD comments and other sources on the Web:

1. …..you wouldn’t expect to be able to isolate it’s effect on total employment.

2. …yet demand for it is rising despite it’s price going up.

3. This is neo-classical economics at it’s stupidest.

4. Livermore has officially taken the Bulb under it’s wing…

5. Will the city just continue to restate it’s demand?

6. This enables Harvard to pay its’ average full professors

7. ….exactly the sort of pop science with it’s foolish solutions….

8. …a burger as big as it’s name….

Carpe Diem

Who-d a-thunk it Friday…..

web1. Socialist hypocrisy? The Freedom Socialist Party (owner of the website domain name Socialism.com) routinely advocates that employers be forced to pay workers a minimum wage of either $15 an hour or $20 an hour. Yet when it comes to hiring a “graphic designer / web content manager” for its Seattle office, the organization is only willing to pay $13 an hour, see advertisement above and Craigslist listing here.

(HT: Reason via Morgan Frank)

2. Good things happen when healthcare buyers and sellers are in the same room? Dr. Keith Smith, founder of the Surgery Center of Oklahoma, says that it is the “ethical and moral obligation of the healthcare services seller to provide the prospective buyer a price in advance of the provision of the service.” By posting prices and increasing transparency, The Surgery Center of Oklahoma have decreased prices to such a level that care is now accessible to his community. Dr. Smith notes that “Price-revealing actions have allowed people to purchase care they previously assumed was otherwise unaffordable, people who had neglected their health entirely, based on a lack of visible pricing.” Source.

3. Obama cares more about politics than worker safety? Oil pipelines like the Keystone XL pose fewer risks for workers and fewer spills compared to transporting oil by rail or truck? That’s what a study released this week by Ken Green at the Fraser Institute concluded.

4. Democrat hypocrisy on the gender wage gap? An analysis by the Washington Free Beacon in April found that female staffers in Democratic Senate offices were paid just 91 cents for each dollar paid to male staffers. The average salary for a woman was more than $5,500 below the average salary for a man. (HT: Juandos)

Carpe Diem

2013 ACLU report finds overwhelming racial bias in weed arrests, calls for states to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana

aclu1aclu2There was a lively discussion on yesterday’s post (“Law Enforcement Against Prohibition’s (LEAP) 10 Reasons to end the senseless, costly, deadly and immoral War on Drugs“), especially about the second reason given by LEAP – “Racial Bias in Arrests.” As a follow-up on that specific topic of possible racial bias in drug arrests, here are some of the key findings below from the June 2013 ACLU report “The War on Marijuana in Black and White: Billions of Dollars Wasted on Racially Biased Arrests” — the first-ever report to examine nationwide state and county marijuana arrest data by race.

1. Marijuana Arrests — 88% of which are for possession offenses — have risen since 2001 and accounted for more than half (52%) of all drug arrests in America in 2010.

2. Teenagers and Young Adults Bear the Brunt of Marijuana Possession Arrests: 62% of marijuana possession arrests in 2010 were of people 24 years old or younger, and more than 34% were of teenagers or younger.

3. Extreme Racial Disparities in Marijuana Possession Arrests Exist Across the Country: Blacks Are 3.73 Times More Likely Than Whites to Be Arrested for Marijuana Possession. In 2010, nationwide the white arrest rate was 192 per 100,000 whites, and the black arrest rate was 716 per 100,000 blacks (see top chart above). In some states, blacks are more than 5 times more likely than whites: Iowa (8.34 times), D.C. (8.05 times — and where a staggering 91% of weed possession arrests were blacks), Minnesota (7.81), Illinois (7.56), Wisconsin (5.98), Kentucky (5.95), and Pennsylvania (5.19).

4. While There Were Pronounced Racial Disparities in Marijuana Arrests Ten Years Ago, the Disparities Have Increased. As the overall number of marijuana arrests has increased over the past decade, the white arrest rate has remained constant at around 192 per 100,000, whereas the Black arrest rate has risen from 537 per 100,000 in 2001 (and 521 per 100,000 in 2002) to 716 per 100,000 in 2010. Hence, it appears that the increase in marijuana arrest rates overall is largely a result of the increase in the arrest rates of Blacks.

5. Blacks and Whites Use Marijuana at Similar Rates. Marijuana use is roughly equal among Blacks and whites. In 2010, 14% of Blacks and 12% of whites reported using marijuana in the past year; in 2001, the figure was 10% of whites and 9% of Blacks. In every year from 2001 to 2010, more whites than Blacks between the ages of 18 and 25 reported using marijuana in the previous year (see bottom chart above). In 2010, 34% of whites and 27% of Blacks reported having last used marijuana more than one year ago — a constant trend over the past decade. In the same year, 59% of Blacks and 54% of whites reported having never used marijuana. Each year over the past decade more Blacks than whites reported that they had never used marijuana.

6. Money Wasted on Marijuana Arrests: States Spent Over $3.6 Billion on Marijuana Possession Enforcement in 2010. The ACLU estimates the total national expenditure of enforcing marijuana possession laws at approximately $3.613 billion. In 2010, states spent an estimated $1,747,157,206 policing marijuana possession arrests, $1,371,200,815 adjudicating marijuana possession cases, and $495,611,826 incarcerating individuals for marijuana possession.

Based on the findings in its report, here are the ACLU’s policy recommendations:

1. The ACLU calls for states to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana to eliminate the unfair racially- and community-targeted selective enforcement of marijuana laws. In addition, at a time when states are facing budget shortfalls, taxing and regulating would allow them to save millions of dollars currently spent on enforcement while raising millions more in revenue – money that can be invested in community and public health programs, including drug treatment.

2. If legalization is not possible, the ACLU recommends either depenalizing marijuana possession by removing all civil and criminal penalties or decriminalizing low-level marijuana possession, so that it becomes a civil offense.

3. Finally, if decriminalization is not possible, the ACLU suggests deprioritizing police and prosecutorial enforcement of marijuana possession laws.

4. The ACLU also urges lawmakers and law enforcement to reform policing practices, including ending racial profiling as well as unconstitutional stops, frisks, and searches. It also recommends reforming state and federal funding streams and their performance measures that can incentivize police to make low-level drug arrests.

Carpe Diem

North Dakota sets more oil production milestones in August – one billion barrels of total oil and more than 13% of US oil

ndoilbakkenOil drillers in North Dakota pumped out 1.13 million barrels of oil per day (bpd) in August, setting another new monthly all-time record high for the state’s crude oil production (see blue line in top chart), according to oil production data released yesterday by North Dakota’s Department of Mineral Resources. August marked the fifth straight month that daily oil production in the Peace Garden State exceeded one million barrels. Another important production milestone was reached in August, as average daily crude oil output from the state’s shale-rich Bakken oil fields topped one million bpd for the third straight month (see brown line in top chart), as the Bakken recently joined an elite group of only ten oil fields in world history whose daily output exceeded one million barrels at peak production. Oil production in the Bakken has increased more than 7X over the last 5 years, from only 151,522 bpd in August 2009 to 1.067 million bpd in August of this year, with accumulated production reaching the one billion barrel milestone in August (see bottom chart above).

Here are some other highlights of North Dakota’s record-setting oil output in August:

1) The state’s average daily oil production increased in August by 24% (26% for Bakken oil) compared to a year ago. Remarkably, in less than three years, oil production in North Dakota has more than doubled from 547,326 bpd in January 2012 to 1.13 million bpd in August.

2) Due to improvement in drilling technologies, the daily oil produced from each well in North Dakota averaged 101 barrels in August (129 barrels per well in the Bakken), just slightly below the record-setting level in June and July of 102 barrels per well. In 2009, the daily oil per well in North Dakota was only 52 barrels, so the productivity of oil extraction in the state has more than doubled in only five years.

3) For the 2nd consecutive month, North Dakota’s oil production in August represented more than 13% of all US crude oil, another new milestone for the Peace Garden State. Five years ago in August of 2009, North Dakota produced only 4.3% of total US crude oil output, and the state’s oil production was about half of oil production in both California and Alaska. Due to the phenomenal growth of oil output in the shale-rich Bakken oil fields, North Dakota surpassed California and Alaska in 2012 to become the country’s No. 2 largest oil-producing state and is now producing more than 13% of all US crude oil.

4) In dollar terms, the oil produced in North Dakota in August had a daily market value of $109 million at the average oil price during the month of $96.54 per barrel for West Texas Intermediate (WTI). For the entire month of August, that would put the market value of North Dakota oil at almost $3.4 billion, just below the $3.6 billion all-time record high for the dollar value of the state’s monthly oil output in July.

5) The Bakken oil fields in western North Dakota produced more than one million bpd in August for the third straight month (see brown line in chart), setting a new all-time monthly output record, which also represented a new record high 94.3% of the state’s monthly oil production. In contrast, the Bakken region produced less than 9% of the state’s oil output at the beginning of 2007, before breakthrough drilling techniques (hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling) were able to tap into a bonanza of unconventional oil in the shale-rich areas of western North Dakota. As mentioned above, the Bakken now joins an elite group of only ten super-giant oil fields worldwide to ever produce more than a million barrels of oil per day at peak production, and just surpassed one billion barrels of accumulated total production.

Bottom Line: August was another stellar month in “Saudi Dakota,” with average daily oil production surpassing one million bpd for the fourth straight month, and establishing yet another new record high for the state’s oil output at 1.13 million bpd. The state’s shale-rich Bakken oil field reached an important energy milestone by producing more than a million barrels a day in August for the third consecutive month, and surpassed one billion barrels of total accumulated production.

The shale boom continues to make the Peace Garden State America’s most economically successful state – with growth in employment and personal income that lead the nation, the lowest state jobless rate in the country for the last 68 months starting in January 2009 (2.8% in August), an enviable and whopping state budget surplus of more than $1 billion, the highest state GDP growth in 2013 of 9.7%, strong housing and construction markets (more than 1,000 permits for single-family homes were issued in both June and July, setting new all-time monthly records), thousands of landowners who have become millionaires from oil and gas royalties (estimated oil royalty payments of more than $16 million every day in August, at 15% of the approximately $115 million in market value calculated above), jobless rates in 15 of the state’s 53 counties at or below 2.0% in August (with Williams County at only 0.8%, the lowest county jobless rate in America), and starting hourly wages at the Williston ND Walmart of $17.20 — 2.4 times the state’s minimum wage of $7.25, and even above the $15 per hour “living wage” that is being proposed in some cities around the country and by fast-food workers for their industry (see photo below).

North Dakota’s economic success, job creation, and energy-based prosperity is being driven by the development of the state’s vast energy resources, especially the vast oceans of shale oil and shale gas in the state’s Bakken region. The Peace Garden State, along with Texas, are the shining stars of The Great American Energy Boom, which continues to be the strongest sector of the US economy and gives us the best reason to be optimistic about the future of the US economy.

Carpe oleum.

walmart

Carpe Diem

Law Enforcement Against Prohibition’s 10 Reasons to end the senseless, costly, deadly and immoral War on Drugs

Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, (LEAP) a group of law enforcement officials opposed to the war on drugs, created a Buzzfeed list to show why the War on Drugs has been one of the most disastrous policies in American history. From mass incarceration and tremendous loss of life to billions of dollars seized from citizens every year, drug prohibition is a colossal failure. LEAP’s list is meant to draw the attention of the public and introduce them to the civil and human rights violations being committed against so many of us every day. Here’s a link to “10 Shocking Reasons to End the Drug War (And Consider Legalization and Regulation)” and here’s a summary of the ten reasons to end the War on Drugs Otherwise Peaceful Americans Who Voluntarily Choose to Ingest Plants, Weeds, and Intoxicants Arbitrarily Proscribed by the US Government:

1. Mass Incarceration – Drug arrests account for more than 50% of federal prisoners, and more than 16% of people in state prison. Today, about 500,000 Americans are behind bars for drug law violations, 10 times the amount in 1980.

2. Racial Bias in Drug Arrests and Jail Sentences – Blacks and whites use drugs at about the same rate, but blacks are three times more likely than whites to be arrested on drug charges and ten times more likely to be sent to state prison on drug charges than whites.

3. Asset Forfeiture Abuses – In 2012 alone, the US Justice Department confiscated $4.2 billion in forfeitures.

4. America’s Deadly Heroin Epidemic — From 2006 to 2010, heroin overdose deaths in the U.S. increased by 45%, and the numbers continue to climb. As the nation has cracked down on prescription opioid abuse, people suffering from addiction have turned to heroin, a cheaper, easily accessible option.

5. The Breakdown between Law Police and the Community, because of the Increasing militarization of US law enforcement and aggressive enforcement of drug laws.

6. Mexican Drug Cartel Violence – 60,000 Mexicans have died since 2006 in drug cartel-related murders, deaths and violence.

7. The War on Women – No country incarcerates more women than the US, and 85% of women jailed in America are serving time for non-violent crimes like drug offenses.

8. Entrapment of Minors – Like the case of Jesse Snodgrass (an autistic teen also diagnosed with bipolar disorder and Tourette’s Syndrome who struggles socially). A police officer posed as a high school student, pretended to be Jesse’s friend, and harassed him until he sold him marijuana.

9. SWAT Raids Kills People and Family Pets34 Americans have been killed just so far this year in US domestic drug law enforcement operations.

10. The Costly Drug War Spends Billions of Taxpayer Dollars on Enforcement, Arrests, Court Costs, Jail Time, etc. 

Carpe Diem

The increasing precision and efficiency of revolutionary drilling technologies have made US world’s largest producer

The Department of Energy (EIA) video above explains how the steadily increasing productivity of oil and natural gas wells in the US — thanks to the increasing precision and efficiency of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing — is increasing US oil and gas production. The shale revolution has increased domestic energy production so much in recent years that the US is now the world’s largest producer of petroleum products and natural gas combined.

The EIA also just released its monthly Drilling and Productivity Report, with estimates through the month of November, and here are a few highlights of that report.

marcellus1. Shale gas in the Marcellus. The amount of natural gas produced per rig in the Marcellus Region has increased 8-fold over the last five years, from a million cubic feet per day in 2009 to 8 million cubic feet per estimated by next month.

eaglebakkenperm

2. Shale oil in America’s three elite oil fields. The combined daily oil output in America’s three largest oil fields – the Bakken, Eagle Ford and Permian Basin – has increased from 1 million barrels per day (bpd) in 2007 to more than 2 million bpd by late 2011, to more than 3 million bdp at the end of 2013, to more than 4 million bpd in May of this year, and all the way to 4.6 million bpd projected by next month.

Related: Thanks to the shale oil boom in North Dakota, the state just attracted its largest-ever private investment of $4 billion from a company planning to build a  polyethylene manufacturing plant in the Peace Garden State that will use the ethane byproduct of oil production as a feedstock.

Also, partly as a result of the ongoing increases in US oil production, gas prices have fallen to a national average of about $3.17 per gallon in recent weeks, the lowest price at the pump in almost five years going back to early 2011. Missouri currently has the lowest gas prices in the country — $2.88 per gallon on average — with prices approaching $2.50 per gallon in some parts of the state.