Cheers: Predicting gasoline prices can be a tricky endeavor, but experts are expecting lower and more-stable prices at the pump in 2014. According to a story from Columbian Business Editor Gordon Oliver, people who know about such things say gas will average about $3.43 per gallon nationally this year. Prices in Washington and Oregon typically are higher than the national average, but such prices would reflect a national drop of 7 to 10 cents per gallon from 2013.
Among the reasons for the decline is that domestic production of gasoline has increased. For the week ending Dec. 20, production averaged 9.72 million barrels a day — the highest total among data that goes back to 1982. While Americans still must work to curb their appetite for oil, reduced and stable prices will be beneficial to the recovering economy.
Jeers: The Clark County Board of Commissioners wrapped up 2013 in the same fashion they spent most of the year's first 51 weeks — with contentious debate. Commissioner Steve Stuart asked to delay the board's decision to halt payments to local chambers of commerce; David Madore and Tom Mielke opted to reiterate the reasoning behind their decision.
The amount of money involved is relatively small, and commissioners should be encouraged to examine all avenues for saving money. But what remains in question is why the board made the decision last summer but didn't inform local economic groups until December. Washington and Oregon counties of similar size to Clark County vary wildly in how much support they provide for local chambers, and the effectiveness of the payments is open to debate. But Clark County commissioners should make more of an effort to work with organizations in the region rather than constantly thumbing their noses at such entities.
Cheers: In case you have ever wondered what $142 million looks like, the equivalent is on display at the Portland Art Museum. Last month, a private, anonymous collector in New York paid that amount for a three-painting series by Francis Bacon, "Three Studies of Lucian Freud." It is the highest amount ever paid at auction for a piece of art.
Chief curator Bruce Guenther, the only museum staff member who knows the identity of the owner, contacted the purchaser and requested a showing. After a cross-country trip that included extraordinary security measures, the artwork is now on display in Portland through March 30.
Jeers: Big Bertha is at a standstill, and that is costing Washington taxpayers money. The world's largest tunnel-boring machine, which is being used to carve a new Alaskan Way Viaduct in downtown Seattle, has hit a roadblock about 60 feet under ground. The $3 billion project is being paid for with gas taxes throughout the state and, as the saying goes, time is money.
Experts still haven't figured out why the machine has stopped about one-tenth of the way into the planned 1.7-mile tunnel, but readers of The Seattle Times think they know the reason. An online poll suggested that Seahawks defensive back Richard Sherman is the only thing powerful enough to stop Big Bertha in her tracks. Makes sense to us.
Cheers: Camas has jumped into the beautification-through-murals movement. A painting atop the Camas Art Gallery has been unveiled, displaying an overhead view of the city and the Crown Willamette paper mill, circa 1900. The work is the first of a planned series of murals in the heart of Clark County's second-largest city.
With the project, Camas joins Vancouver in becoming home to public works reflecting the heritage and the culture of the area. As Vancouver's experience has demonstrated, artwork can enliven a downtown, demonstrating and sparking bursts of creativity.