MONEY Taxes

As Gas Prices Go Down, Likelihood of Higher Gas Taxes Goes Up

It's no wonder that many are calling for higher gas taxes lately: Gas prices are the cheapest they've been in years, so a hike in gas taxes is less likely to drive drivers nuts.

Raising taxes is never popular. But if there was ever a way to make a tax increase more palatable to Americans, it would be with a tax hike that didn’t seem like much of a tax hike. Like, say, one that was optimally planned so that even after the tax increase was instituted, the average household wouldn’t feel like it was paying much more out of pocket than it was in the recent past.

Just such a rare opportunity is now upon us. Gas prices have plummeted—dipping under $2 per gallon in some markets, with further decreases likely—and some want to take advantage of the situation by jacking up the gas tax at both the state and federal levels. Depending on how high taxes are raised, drivers might very well still be paying less to fill up than they were a few months or a year ago. So in a way, at least theoretically, this is a tax hike that wouldn’t feel like a typical tax hike.

A recent Washington Post column pointed out that the federal gas tax has been stuck at a flat 18.4¢ since 1993. At the time, the price of a gallon of regular was about $1. “It’s been a generation since gas taxes were increased at all,” Paul Bledsoe, a senior fellow on energy at the German Marshall Fund, told the Post. “So they are incredibly low by historic levels.”

Over the years, many have called for increases to the federal gas tax, which has not kept up with inflation. “Inflation has effectively reduced the [gas] tax rate by about one third” over the last two decades, the nonpartisan Tax Foundation noted earlier this year. Most states have flat gas taxes as well, and critics say the revenues collected are falling well short of what’s needed to address our nation’s crumbling infrastructure. “At the state and local levels, gas taxes cover less than half of state and local transportation spending,” said Tax Foundation economist Joseph Henchman.

Again, there’s nothing really new about calls to raise more funds to fix roads and other infrastructure needs at the national and state levels. What is new, however, is that gas is the cheapest it’s been in years, and that projections indicate per-gallon prices will remain well under $3 indefinitely. Predictions call for a national average of $2.94 per gallon next year, which would be roughly 45¢ less than 2014 and 70¢ less what drivers typically paid in 2012.

Hence the fresh push to raise gas taxes while prices at the pump are inexpensive. As Elaine S. Povich of the Pew Charitable Trusts observed recently:

“Cheap gasoline makes such levies more politically palatable, since consumers are less likely to notice the extra burden when they are filling up.”

It must be noted that while the federal gas tax hasn’t budged in two decades, state gas taxes (and other local taxes that help support roads and infrastructure) have been increased fairly regularly. Pennsylvania, Wyoming, and West Virginia are among the states where gas taxes were hiked this year or last, and discussions are in the works to raise state gas taxes in Iowa, Utah, Michigan, New Jersey, Oregon, and beyond. Data from the American Petroleum Institute shows that nationally, drivers pay an average of 49.28¢ per gallon when state and federal levies are added up.

While it’s unsurprising that environmental supporters and academics such as Mississippi State’s Sid Salter are renewing cries for gas tax hikes while gas prices are cheap, it’s particularly noteworthy that some Republicans seem in favor of tax increases at this opportune moment in time as well.

Last month, U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-SD) actually criticized President Obama for refusing to consider a gas tax increase over the years. “I always thought that was ironic, that he’s willing to raise every other tax,” Thune said to the Rapid City Journal. “And then the one that actually pays for something you can see a direct benefit from, he doesn’t want to talk about it.”

More recently, Congressman Tom Petri (R-WI), who is retiring soon, it must be noted, announced he is sponsoring a bill to raise the federal gas tax by 15¢ to 33¢ by 2013. “No one likes taxes,” Petri said in a Huffington Post interview in early December:

“But the issue is whether we should pay for transportation, or cut back on spending and transportation and have less roads and poorer infrastructure, or borrow it from our kids — debt financing it and hoping someone pays the debt off at a future date. And of those choices, it seems to me that the most responsible long-term approach is to do the thing that is unpopular but necessary.”

It helps that the move won’t be quite as unpopular as it would be had the gas tax hike been introduced back when the average driver was paying $3.50 or $3.75 per gallon.

TIME energy

China Strengthening Claim to South China Sea Oil and Gas

Cranes stand on a drilling platform construction site at the yard of Offshore Oil Engineering Co., a unit of CNOOC Ltd., in the Zhuhai Gaolan Port Economic Zone in Zhuhai, Guangdong province, China on Nov. 13, 2014.
Cranes stand on a drilling platform construction site at the yard of Offshore Oil Engineering Co. in the Zhuhai Gaolan Port Economic Zone in Zhuhai, Guangdong province, China on Nov. 13, 2014. Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

China’s most recent undertaking in the Spratly island chain is not their first – the last 18 months have already seen three reclamation projects

This post originally appeared on OilPrice.com.

Not gone and not forgotten, China is ready to solidify its claim to the South China Sea (SCS). Recent satellite imagery confirms China is conducting significant land reclamation operations in the Spratly Islands in the SCS. The SCS is an important fishing ground and is believed to hold large amounts of oil and gas. Undermining the United States’ influence in the region, China intends to play the shepherd in one of the world’s busiest trade routes.

map
BBC

The Spratly Islands along with the Paracel Islands and several maritime boundaries in the SCS have been hotly disputed for several centuries. The conflict includes Brunei, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam and has predominantly centered on historical and cultural claims. Though offering very little in the way of land or resources, the islands serve as a tangible marker. As such, parties to the conflict have been quick to occupy them.

Related: Has The PRC Decided On Its Global Strategic Posture?

China’s most recent undertaking in the Spratly island chain is not their first – the last 18 months have already seen three reclamation projects. However, at more than 3,000 meters and counting Fiery Cross Reef is their grandest venture yet and appears destined to house an airstrip and harbor, both capable of supporting military hardware. The Philippines, Malaysia, and Vietnam already operate airstrips in the Spratlys, but can only support smaller, prop-based aircraft.

As it pursues expansion, China has been hesitant to engage in multilateral negotiations and meaningful dialogue on the SCS was relegated to the sidelines at the recent APEC and ASEAN summits. Instead, China – demanding an in-house solution to the convoluted matter – is content to flex its superior political and military might to limited opposition. Reluctant to step on any toes and with its feet in multiple courts, the United States is short on political recourse, and that’s how China likes it.

Though China’s aims are long-term, control of the Spratlies and Paracels is not subsidiary to any prize that may lie beneath. Chinese President Xi Jinping’s “Asian security concept” calls for Asian solutions to Asian problems and seeks to limit Western influence in such “domestic” affairs. Unchecked dominance in the SCS, whether through direct force or intimidation, would be a remarkable victory in this regard.

And to the victor go the spoils, which in this case are still pretty unclear, a side effect of the conflict itself. The Energy Information Administration estimates the SCS holds approximately 11 billion barrels (bbl) of oil and 190 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of natural gas. That estimate jumps to as much as 22 bbl of oil and 290 Tcf of natural gas according to a U.S. Geological Survey study. Chinese National Offshore Oil Company (CNOOC) is perhaps the most optimistic and estimates undiscovered resources of oil and gas in the SCS total 125 bbl and 500 Tcf respectively.

Related: China’s Emissions Could Negate Global Efforts Against Climate Change

map

To date, the SCS nations have been relatively successful drilling in their near-offshore waters. Malaysia and Thailand for example, have created Joint Development Agreements to expedite production without addressing territorial disputes. For its part, China has largely played the provocateur. In 2011 and 2012, China offered a slew of oil and gas blocks to foreign bidders; the blocks – in contested waters – received no bids. More recently in May, China stationed its new deepwater drilling rig within Vietnam’s Exclusive Economic Zone setting off a series of violent protests in Vietnam.

Disregarding today’s low commodity prices, the SCS is a tough sell for Western majors unwilling to take sides. Shell and ExxonMobil have been the most active in conflict-free waters and any multilateral resolution favors their size and deepwater drilling experience.

Despite the uncertainty of the resources below the surface, there is quantifiable wealth above. Approximately 14 million barrels of crude oil and over half of the global LNG trade pass through the SCS daily. In all, $5.3 trillion in total trade moves annually through the SCS. With an aim to control no less than 80 percent of the sea, China may soon be able to impose its will on global trade patterns.

More Top Reads From Oilprice.com:

MONEY Gas

Gas Under $2 a Gallon as Gas Stations Launch Price Wars

A sign displays the price for E-10 gasoline for $1.99 at the OnCue convenience store and gas station, Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2014, in Oklahoma City.
A sign displays the price for E-10 gasoline for $1.99 at the OnCue convenience store and gas station, Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2014, in Oklahoma City. Paul B. Southerland—AP

Gas station price wars have pushed the cost of a gallon of regular below $2 in one U.S. city, and similar price wars are expected in other metro areas around the country.

Less than a week ago, gas price analysts were forecasting that gas stations in some part(s) of the country would probably drop prices below $2 per gallon sometime in the near future—most likely “by Christmas.” Turns out it didn’t take nearly that long to dip under the $2 mark.

Less than one month after the national average dropped below $3 per gallon, a gas station in Oklahoma City apparently became the first in the country to plunge beneath $2. It happened sometime on Wednesday, and as Bloomberg News reported, within a few hours several other gas stations in the Oklahoma City area had engaged in a price war, with per-gallon costs falling from $2.11, to $2.03, to $1.99, to $1.98, and at least one reaching $1.95. As of Thursday morning, drivers in the Oklahoma City area are reporting four gas stations where a gallon of regular starts under $2, according to GasBuddy.

This doesn’t mean that all drivers in Oklahoma, or even in the capital city area, can expect to see such low gas prices. According to AAA, the statewide average in Oklahoma is $2.51, and GasBuddy estimates the average in greater Oklahoma City is around $2.42. It’s just that some stations are being particularly aggressive on pricing in order to attract drivers. They’re not making much if any money on sub-$2 gas, but the stations hope that customers grab coffee, snacks, and other purchases while they’re filling up.

Meanwhile, the latest press release from AAA notes that gas prices nationally have dropped 69 days in a row and have fallen nearly $1 from the 2014 high in late April, when the average was $3.70.

Based on the way things are going, prices at the pump should only get cheaper, indefinitely. “The holiday joy should continue as gas prices drop even further in the weeks ahead,” AAA spokesperson Avery Ash noted in the release. “We could see prices drop to the lowest levels since the Great Recession if the cost of crude oil continues to set multi-year lows.”

Another likely prediction is that Oklahoma City won’t be the only metro area where drivers will enjoy the financial benefits of gas price wars. Look for similar pricing competitions at a gas station near you, coming soon.

MONEY Autos

Americans Are Back in Love with SUVs. Is Cheap Gas the Reason?

141202_EM_LuxSUVLove
2015 Cadillac Escalade Richard Prince—GM

November was an exceptionally strong month for auto sales—especially for trucks and SUVs of all shapes, sizes, and degrees of luxury.

With the help of Black Friday promotions and the cheapest gas prices in years, the auto industry posted a brilliant November for sales. General Motors announced that sales were up 6% compared to a year ago, making for its best November in seven years. In fact, the Detroit Free Press reported that once all of the sales totals are in, last month could very well be the best November the auto industry has seen in 13 years, thanks especially to strong performances from GM and Chrysler (up 20%).

Ford sales in November were down 2% compared to a year, but even that is being considered a victory of sorts, because the results outperformed analysts’ expectations. (Experts anticipated a sales decline largely because Ford is in the process of producing a new aluminum-bodied F-150 truck—the country’s best-selling vehicle for more than three decades—and naturally sales are slumping while drivers await the updated model.)

What’s interesting is that while Ford had a less-than-stellar month overall, a few of its vehicles experienced a terrific November in terms of sales. Two SUVs, the Explorer and the crossover Escape, did great business, up 13% and 22% compared to a year ago. And those impressive gains pale in comparison to their higher-end sibling. Ford’s Lincoln brand was up 21% overall for the month, and sales of the Lincoln Navigator—a luxury SUV with a sticker price starting over $60,000—reached 1,433 for the month, a rise of 88% compared to a year ago.

Similarly, one of the Navigator’s luxury SUV competitors, the Cadillac Escalade (MSRP from $72,970), saw sales increase a whopping 75% in November, even as Cadillac as a whole experienced a 15% decline for the month. Several other GM trucks and SUVs, including the Chevrolet Silverado, GMC Sierra, and Buick Encore, also had booming Novembers, with sales up 24%, 57%, and 72%, respectively.

Yet another SUV-centric auto brand, Fiat Chrysler’s Jeep, had a brilliant November, with sales up 67% for the new Cherokee and up 27% overall. Meanwhile, Toyota, which beat expectations with a mild 3% sales increase in November, made a point of noting how well its trucks and SUVs did for the month. “Consumer demand for light trucks continues unabated and Toyota dealers set new November sales records for light trucks and SUVs,” Toyota division group vice president Bill Fay said in a press release.

What explains the surge in SUV sales? To some extent, the category’s performance is emblematic of the auto industry having a strong month overall. But decreasing gas prices are probably playing a role as well: Apparently the dip under under $3 per gallon seemed like a cue to some consumers that it was time to consider an SUV again. The fact that new trucks and SUVs are more fuel-efficient than their older counterparts helps the cause. On the other hand, only rapidly decreasing gas prices—and short memories on the behalf of consumers who griped not long ago about dropping $100 on fill-ups—can explain the reported increase in sales of gas-guzzling Hummers on used car lots recently.

Toward the end of November in particular, dealerships were offering especially aggressive promotions on SUVs of all shapes and sizes. Ford’s rivals were very aggressive with deals on light-weight pickups, likely with the idea of wooing buyers before they have the chance to purchase the new Ford F-150, soon to be widely available. Finally, the Black Friday shop-a-thon weekend seems to have instilled in consumers a mentality for splurging on high-priced automobiles, especially when it seemed like the deals were good.

“Arguably more than other Black Fridays, this one seemed to have been positioned as a big ticket Black Friday,” LMC Automotive’s Jeff Schuster said, according to Bloomberg News. “It’s the 65-inch TVs, big appliances or cars that consumers focused on.”

 

MONEY Gas

Gas Prices Will Soon Drop Below $2 Per Gallon

Gas prices have been falling for months, and thanks to plummeting oil prices, they're expected to keep on dropping through the end of the year—dipping below $2 per gallon in some parts of the country.

As of Monday, the national average for a gallon of regular was down to $2.77, according to the AAA Fuel Gauge Report, while the average in at least 10 states was under $2.60. At this time one year ago, the national average was $3.27 per gallon, which at the time was considered reasonable, if not downright cheap.

Wholesale prices for U.S. crude oil are down 38% compared with June, and analysts expect prices to keep dropping in the weeks ahead. The trickle-down effect is that American drivers will be receiving a holiday gift in the form of cheaper and cheaper gas.

How cheap? The national average may hit $2.50, and gas stations in states where pump prices are already low are all but guaranteed to dip into sub-$2 territory.

“We’ll see at least one station in the nation at $2 by Christmas,” Patrick DeHaan, an analyst with the gas price-tracking site GasBuddy told Bloomberg recently. “And that’s not really a prediction at all. That’s more like a certainty.”

“Drivers in southeastern states may see a select few stations selling gas at or below $2 in the coming weeks,” AAA spokesman Josh Carrasco said in a news release.

Drivers in all states can expect increasingly cheaper prices at the pump through the end of the year. And drivers in states where prices are already below average—including Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas—are most likely to see prices drop below the $2 mark.

Read next: There’s an App for the Next Time Your Car Breaks Down

TIME Diet/Nutrition

11 Bad Habits That Bloat You

bloating
Getty Images

Surprising ways to flatten your belly fast

Sometimes it comes from excess air trapped in your digestive tract. Other times it feels like a basketball is stuck in your abdomen, or your entire midsection has been flooded with water. Whatever bloating feels like to you, one thing’s for sure: it’s uncomfortable. And though bloat rarely signals something serious and typically goes away after several hours (eased up by moving around, drinking water, and just waiting it out), a distended middle can make you feel lethargic, clumsy, and suspecting you’ll never be able to button your jeans again. Welcome back your flatter belly by saying goodbye to habits that are prone to puff you up.

HEALTH.COM: 11 Reasons Why You’re Not Losing Belly Fat

You eat too fast

The pace of life has us all in a hurry, but if that leaves you wolfing down your meals, be warned: besides food, you’re also swallowing gas-producing air, which balloons your belly. Trapped air isn’t the only bloat trigger here. “When you eat in a rush, you don’t chew thoroughly, and that leads to larger food pieces sitting in your gut, waiting to be fully digested,” explains New York City nutritionist Stephanie Middleberg, RD, of Middleberg Nutrition. Another speed-eating danger: you lose track of how much you’re consuming, and stuffing yourself makes your stomach feel, well, stuffed. Instead of eating on the run, carve out at least 20 minutes for a slower sit-down meal. That’s how long it takes your brain to register fullness, signaling that it’s time to put your fork down so you don’t overdo it.

You can’t give up your soda habit

The same tiny bubbles that give soda and sparkling water that bubbly sensation also cause your stomach to swell, says Middleberg. Diet soda is an even worse belly bloater since artificial sweeteners can’t be digested. Really can’t live without you fizz fix? Cut down on the carbonation by leaving it open for a few hours before drinking it or by pouring the drink into a cup with ice cubes.

HEALTH.COM: 10 Reasons to Give Up Diet Soda

Your go-to lunch is a sandwich

Even the healthiest sammies tend to be packed with sodium. A recent USDA study discovered that the sodium content in the typical sandwich can chew up 20% of your sodium allowance, says Janet Brill, PhD, RD, a Philadelphia-area nutritionist and author of Blood Pressure Down. And a 2012 CDC study listed the top sodium-loaded foods, many of which were sandwich staples. “Bread and rolls ranked as the number-one source of sodium in the typical American diet, and deli meat was number two, with cheese not far behind,” says Brill. The CDC recommends keeping sodium intake under 2,300 mg, and you can stay within that number and prevent sodium-induced bloat by alternating your sandwich habit with other foods or forgoing the bread and wrapping it a crisp piece of romaine lettuce.

You consume your kale raw

Packed with essential vitamins, kale has a well-deserved reputation as a trendy salad superstar. Thing is, this cruciferous vegetable contains so much hard-to-break-down fiber and an indigestible sugar called raffinose that consuming it raw in a smoothie or salad may bring on gas and puffiness, says Middleberg. Kale is not the only veggie offender; other cruciferous greens like Brussels sprouts and broccoli have the same effect. “Cut down on the bloating by eating less kale and cooking the kale you do eat by steaming or roasting it,” suggests Middleberg. You still get the nutrients, but cooking helps soften the fiber and shrink the volume of kale you consume, so it doesn’t take up so much gut-busting room in your small intestines.

You eat lots of packaged foods

Once again, the culprit here is sodium—it’s used as a preservative for tons of processed convenience foods. You know that crackers and chips are sodium bombs, but even healthy-looking items such as soups, salad dressings, cereals, and tomato sauce can have crazy-high amounts of sodium that easily lead you to exceed the 2,300 mg daily recommended limit. “It’s a good bet that pretty much any product that comes wrapped in a package contains more sodium than you’d think, and you’re unlikely to even taste the salt,” says Brill. Dodge the belly-bloating effects by reading labels and going for packaged foods that contain less than 500 mg per serving. And of course, try to cut back on the processed stuff and fill your plate with naturally low-sodium or sodium-free fresh fruits, grains, and veggies.

HEALTH.COM: 13 Foods That Are Saltier Than You Realize

You choose diet or low-calorie products

Artificial sugars such as aspartame and sucralose have been added to everything from diet beverages to gum and candy. But the low or no calories come at a cost. While the FDA has recognized zero-cal sugar substitutes as safe, they’re serious bloat inducers. Artificial sweeteners hang around your stomach a long time because your system doesn’t digest them well (or at all). Makes sense, considering that they contain nothing your system recognizes as actual food, says Middleberg. “Banish them from your diet, and you’ll feel instant relief,” she says.

You’re a big fan of beans

Kidney, pinto, black, red—beans (plus their legume cousins, lentils and chickpeas) are an awesome source of high-quality plant protein. Unfortunately the carbohydrates in beans tend to be indigestible, and that’s what gives them their gassy, belly-bloating reputation, says Brill. Thing is, beans boost the health of so many dishes, from chili to soup to burritos, that it would be a nutritional crime to dump them out of your diet entirely. The solution: take an over-the-counter anti-gas product such as Beano along with your beans. “These contain the enzyme we’re missing that makes the carbohydrates digestible,” says Brill. “It’s safe to take, and it prevents the uncomfortable puffy feeling.”

You chew gum or suck on candy

Gum and hard candy keep your mouth occupied, which can help you lose weight or quit smoking. But they too cause you to inadvertently gulp lots of excess air. And as with using a straw and eating too fast, excessive air can lead to belching and that beached whale feeling. Try giving up the gum and suckers and instead take frequent sips of water—that will keep your mouth busy too. There’s a bonus to H2O as well: plain water helps keep your GI tract moving, and that gets rid of excess air and water bloating out your system, explains Alissa Rumsey, RD, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

You eat dinner too close to bedtime

If you eat a typical-size dinner within an hour or two of hitting the sack, you’re setting yourself up for morning muffin top. Lying down impairs digestion, so if you hit the bed with food in your stomach, it won’t be broken down as quickly, leaving you bloated in the a.m., says Rumsey. It’s not always easy to shift your schedule, but try having supper at least three to four hours before turning in for the night. Stay on your feet as much as possible to keep things moving before you fall asleep. If you have no choice but to eat right before bedtime, make it something small, like a piece of fruit or yogurt, and refuel with a bigger meal at breakfast, when your metabolism is running high again and your body will benefit from the energy jolt.

HEALTH.COM: Best and Worst Foods for Sleep

You ignore food allergy symptoms

Despite all the attention food allergies score these days (gluten-free mania, anyone?), most of us aren’t affected by them. Still, some allergies and sensitivities are a little-known reason for belly expansion. People with a wheat allergy who can’t digest gluten often deal with digestive issues and bloating, and if you’re lactose intolerant, you’ll also experience lots of distention and discomfort, says Rumsey. If you find yourself frequently feeling like a bowling ball, and none of these other factors seem to be the cause, check in with your doctor and ask to be tested for food allergies and sensitivities.

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

MONEY The Economy

$3 Gas Makes Driving Cheaper, but Not Flying

A big drop in fuel prices — sparked by an oversupply of oil — means Americans have been enjoying the prices at the pump.

MONEY Gas

Get Used to Gas Prices Under $3 Per Gallon

changing gas price sign
Derek Davis—Getty Images

A new government report is forecasting that the average price for a gallon of regular gasoline in 2015 will be $2.94.

It seemed like quite a big deal when the national average for gasoline dipped under $3 recently. The price of the average gallon of regular had started with a $3 from late December 2010 all the way until the beginning of November 2014, when at long last it dropped below the mark. The national average as of Thursday, according to AAA, is $2.917, and some states, such as South Carolina and Tennessee, are averaging under $2.70.

According to a report this week from the federal Energy Information Administration, it looks like sub-$3 gas prices will be sticking around for a while. The report projects that gas prices will keep declining through the end of the year, with a national average of $2.80 expected for December. And the average for 2015 as a whole is being forecast at $2.94 per gallon.

The retail price of gasoline is tied to the wholesale price of crude oil, and due to bountiful supply and shrinking demand, the EIA is predicting that the cost of crude will average $77.75 per barrel next year, compared with $95 in 2014 and $97.91 in 2013. Accordingly, prices at the pump are expected to be cheaper in 2015—averaging $2.94, compared with $3.39 this year and $3.51 in 2013.

If the forecasts hold up, by December the national average will have dropped 90¢ from the 2014 high, and the 2015 average will be roughly 70¢ lower than that of 2012—when it was $3.63, the overall most expensive year (thus far) for gasoline.

 

TIME russia

Moscow Officials Issue Warning After Poisonous Gas Detected

Its cause is currently unknown

Emergency officials in Moscow are urging residents in certain areas to stay inside as a noxious gas makes it way through the Russian capital.

The cause of the gas is unknown, the BBC reports. No chemical factories in the area have yet reported any accidents. Local media reports suggest the gas is hydrogen sulphide, which can be very toxic and whose smell resembles rotten eggs.

The gas has been detected in the eastern, south-eastern and central parts of the city, as well as in certain shopping districts and around a government building.

[BBC]

TIME Environment

Midterm Elections Pass Four New Anti-Fracking Bans

Denton, Texas, passed high-profile ban on hydraulic fracturing

A record number of proposed bans to the controversial oil and gas drilling technique known as fracking were included on local ballots countrywide Tuesday. Out of eight proposed bans, four passed, in Ohio, Texas and California.

Perhaps the unlikeliest victory for anti-fracking activists was in Denton, Texas, a town north of Dallas situated in what one activist called the “cradle” of the U.S. oil and gas boom. The ban, which forbids the process of setting off large explosions underground in oil and gas drilling operations, passed with nearly 59% of the vote.

Denton is the first municipality in Texas to have passed a fracking ban–even despite heavy spending by the oil and gas industry to defeat the measure that the Denton Record Chronicle called it “the most expensive campaign in Denton’s history” by far.

“People in Denton rallied together and did some amazing organizing to pass a ban,” said Mark Schlosberg.

A legal challenge to the ban is all but assured, reports the Texas Tribune. Three of five similar bans passed in Colorado in recent years were overturned in local district court.

Fracking bans were also passed in Mendocino and San Benito counties in California, and in Athens, Ohio, while voters in Santa Barbara, California, and in the Ohio towns of Kent, Gates Mills and Youngstown rejected proposed fracking bans.

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser