Friday / Weekend Open Line

A perpetually hot topic, in summer and other seasons, is the fluctuating cost of gasoline and diesel fuel. Some discussion centers on the amount of taxes paid at the pump, as state taxes on fuels vary widely. The highest state tax plus fees on gasoline is 50.5 cents per gallon, levied in New York, while Connecticut imposes a 54.5 cent tax on diesel. Nationally, the lowest state taxes and fees on both is around 4.5 cents per gallon, the rate in Alaska. Across the country, there are 114,000 places to fill your tank — about 100,000 fewer than in 1967. Nearly 86 percent of today’s gas stations are connected with convenience stores. You can find more facts about America from the U.S. Census Bureau, online at <>.

Saturday, August 30th. Few of us have the opportunity to actually change the shape of people’s lives and help them to live more happily. Such a man was Dr. Claire Straith, whose birthday in 1891 is noted today. Treating soldiers wounded in World War I, he pioneered many techniques in plastic and cosmetic surgery that are still in use today. Later, noting that he was performing a lot of reconstructive surgery on crash victims, Straith successfully urged automakers to use safety glass and remove dangerous projections from the interiors of their cars. There are some 6,000 to 7,000 specialists in plastic surgery among the more than 690,000 physicians and surgeons in the U.S. practicing out of some of the nearly 222,000 physicians’ offices across the country. You can find more facts about America’s people, places and economy from the American Community Survey at

Sunday, August 31st. The 1950s may be recalled for many now-quaint things, but it was also a decade with antecedents for our current technological pursuits. On this date in 1955, William G. Cobb of the General Motors Corporation demonstrated the world’s first solar-powered car. This vehicle didn’t take the world by storm because it was a model a mere 15 inches long. The first solar powered car that could actually be driven was unveiled in 1962; a 1912 Baker electric car was fitted with nearly 11,000 individual solar cells on the roof to power the vehicle. Now, more than 50 years on, a fully practical solar-powered car remains a goal, but manufacturing automobiles, mostly powered by internal combustion, is around an $80 billion a year business in the U.S. You can find more facts about America’s people, places and economy from the American Community Survey at