September 02, 2005

Gas Prices

With gas prices rising to over $3.25 per gallon, it is clear to me that the U.S. needs to do something to break the U.S. dependency on oil and petroleum products. In our economy, the greatest use of oil and petroleum is by automobiles. As I mentioned in this post and this post, there are very workable alternatives, such as hybrid automobiles and hydrogen fuel cell technology, that the U.S. government should be putting more resources into to accelerate their mass availability.

I find it encouraging that more automobile companies are researching hydrogen fuel cell technology and are introducing more hybrid models of automobiles. However, the industry is late to do so and it will take many years for the hybrid and hydrogen fuel cell introduction to make a sizeable impact on our nation's petroleum consumption.

While the number of hybrid vehicles purchased has been increasing, the automobile companies are offering a very limited selection of hybrid vehicles and are requiring that consumers to pay a premium to buy such hybrid. As such, it will take much longer for the hybrid vehicles to gain widespread acceptance in the market.

In the meantime, what can be done presently about the gasoline prices?
Howard Dean and the DNC issued a press release - of course - blaming George Bush for the skyrocketing gas prices and offering little, if any, gudiance as to how the Democrats could solve the rising gas prices:

"Under the Bush Presidency over the past five years we've seen skyrocketing gas prices and oil companies reaping record profits, while ordinary Americans struggle to pay their bills -- yet the President has seemingly looked the other way. Americans are always willing to shoulder their fair share of the burden, and they have been. Now it's time for the President to step up and put the needs of the American people ahead of profits for his pals in Big Oil. So while he's asking ordinary Americans to do more, he ought to show some real leadership, and call on his friends in Big Oil to join in the sacrifice and stop gouging American families at the gas pump."

I am sure that oil companies are money, however, is it necessarily true that this is due to oil companies jacking up the prices? (pay no attention to the fact that most of the gas stations are independently owned) Yet, Howard Dean and the Democrats think so, and assume that gas prices will fall as soon as President Bush talks with "his pals in Big oil". Yeah, Howard. . . gas prices are currently at record levels because President Bush hasn't reigned in the evil cabal of oil companies that do his bidding. Evidently, the record level of gas prices has nothing to do with OPEC, the Middle East, excessive consumption, not enough refining capacity, Hurricane Katrina, etc. Get serious.

So, why are record gas prices only the President's responsibility? Does the President pass laws? Does the President control the purse strings of the United States. No, any sixth grader, who is taking a civics course, would tell you that Congress passes laws and controls the amount of federal spending.

Has the Democratic Party or any Democrats in Congress offered a plan to deal with gas prices that involves something more than telling President Bush to deal with it?? There are many Democratic members of the Senate and House - what are they doing to address the issue? Have any Democrats introduced bills to increase our oil refining capacity? Have any Democrats introduced bills calling for a reduction in the gasoline taxes paid by the public? Have any Democrats introduced bills calling for higher mileage requirements? Have any Democrats introduced bills to provide automobile companies with greater incentives to move to alternative fuel technology more quickly?

Certainly, the President suggests budgets and the Republicans "control" Congress. My questions are equally valid when posed to them. However, does anyone really believe that a majority of members of Congress would vote against any such measures given the public's current outrage against prices? This could be a great issue for Democrats to take control over and win the public's trust and grattitude. Yet, rather than propose viable alternatives, the Democrats do what they do best- blame Bush. No offense, Howard, but Bush isn't running in 2006 or 2008. If you want more Democrats to be in office, you need to show the American public that you know how to handle important issues that effect their lives. This may come as a shock to Howard Dean and those Democrats frequenting Daily Kos, and Democratic Underground, but a majority of Americans do not believe that Bush is the devil incarnate. A majority of Americans want solutions to our nations problems - not mudslinging.

James Lileks has some thoughts on our alternatives:

So what to do about our gas crisis? The options are few, but clear. Start with this: The government cuts taxes on gas to put money back in people's pockets, and reduces the regulatory obstacles to new refinery construction.

(Pause)

(Snicker)

(Gales of laughter; wiping tears from eyes)

Oh, that's a good one, isn't it. OK, let's consider some serious ideas:

- Drive less. Especially you people in North Dakota who insist on getting in the car to go five miles in sleet just to pick up some medicine. Buy your pills online, and let UPS deliver it. Their trucks run on pixie dust.

- Alternative fuels. Go ahead, come up with a substitute; no one's stopping you. Except of course the oil company Black Ops teams. Last week they took out a dude who invented an engine that ran on hemp and turkey guts. True, man. Read it on the Internet. That's why there's no substitute for gas right now; it has nothing to do with technological and distribution barriers. It's all those Texaco assassins.

- Confiscate Iraq's oilfields. As long as we're going to be accused of fighting a war for oil, might as well get some gas out of it. The Iraqi government is subsidizing gas for its own people; odd we don't get some benefit. It's as if we think forging a constitution and birthing a civil society are more important than diverting Iraqi crude to American cars. As "The Simpsons"' Comic Book Guy would say: Worst. Imperialists. Ever.

- Drill! Drill everywhere! Not just Alaska, but California. Florida, too. To heck with what Jeb Bush wants; put those platforms so close to the coast you could incorporate them into golf courses. Drill in Central Park if you have to. Would the aesthetic damage be more important than the economic damage caused by high oil costs? Depends on whom you ask. New Yorkers, who think Manhattan runs on ego juice distilled from brokers and real-estate moguls, say YES. Because oil is bad and ugly and gives the Arctic Ice Shelf cancer. But drilling no longer requires big, gushing structures that look like an Eiffel Tower for hillbillies. You could probably hide a drill in a nice office building. It would look peculiar in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, granted; the caribou would have trouble breeding because they'd never get past lobby security. But in New York, who'd know? Doesn't matter: For some, it's not just the sight of a drilling rig that offends. It's the moral stain inherent in oil production, an ethical taint that touches everything. OK, then: Give the nation's artists free hand to decorate the derricks as they please. Funded by the National Endowment for the Arts. It would cause some people to seize up and fall over. Must ... hate ... derrick ... yet ... derrick ... is ... culturally ... transgressive. Does ... not ... compute.

- Nuclear power. You know, like the French. Heck, it's so great even the Iranians want it, and surely anyone who's got the international trademark on "Death to America" must be on to something.

To sum up: We could drill more, build more domestic refineries, build new nuke plants and slash government taxes on gas. Or we could have federal mandates on fuel economy and carpooling, so you're forced to sit in a tiny box arguing about the radio with a stranger who applies Brut with a hose. Sure, you lose some freedom, but ANWR remains pristine, and Malibu beach houses don't have their sunsets spoiled.

For others blogging on this subject, see: News Snipet, Values Pundit, Pax Plena, Through-A-Glass-Darkly.
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