May 2, 2008 | Commentary on Energy and Environment
Gasoline prices have hit Washington like a Molotov cocktail.
It may be the biggest factor in this fall's elections, so Washington, D.C., politicians are trying to dodge the flames and make someone else the villain and the target.
The attitude is typified by Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., whose all-purpose answer is "Big Oil should pay." Although Schumer represents Wall Street, he flunks economics: Whatever extra amounts "Big Oil" is made to pay will only be added onto the price of gas, making us the ones who pay even more at the pump.
There is an answer: We have ways to lower gasoline prices (to be outlined in a moment), but only if we recognize that America is held hostage more by radical environmental policy than it is by OPEC. And Congress has been their puppet.
Congress should be nervous, because no other issue touches so many pocketbooks as directly as gasoline prices do. Not subprime mortgages. Not college loans. Not even jobs and not even income taxes (since 41 million working Americans have already been exempted from federal income taxes).
Nine of 10 Americans still drive to work, the Census Bureau reported last year even after a gallon of gasoline climbed to over $3. That means 90 percent of working Americans see reminders along every street every day as they drive, as prices are prominently displayed at over 100,000 gas stations. The "soccer moms" also get reminded as they drive and tote around their youngsters.
The still-climbing prices are stoking anger - and anger needs a target. Politicians are rushing to dodge that blame and to channel that blame toward their rivals.
Republicans jumped at the chance to blame Democrats because prices are up almost $1.50 a gallon since Democrats took over Congress. Democrats say we're victims - not just victims of an OPEC conspiracy (which is obviously true), but also victims of corporate greed:
But political wrangling does nothing to reduce prices or increase domestic energy supplies. It's just scapegoating.
How do we lower our gasoline prices? Here are five ways, but beware that they require patience:
A plentiful supply of alternative energy remains far in the future, but much of it will be more expensive than $4-a-gallon gasoline.
Thankfully, at least one politician is acting rather than just talking. Texas Gov. Rick Perry just wrote the EPA, asking the agency to exempt Texas from at least half the mandate to blend ethanol in with its gasoline - which he notes is driving food prices through the roof as well as costing us billions in subsidies.
How many more will get the message? Based on recent comments, not enough so far. But that might change before Election Day. America is discovering how much radical environmentalism has cost us already - even without the new proposals being promoted by Al Gore and Company.
Gasoline packs a wallop in politics just as in autos. Now the
tiger is out of the tank, and politicians find they must try to
ride the tiger. Or it may eat them come November.
Ernest Istook is recovering from serving 14 years in Congress and is now a distinguished fellow at The Heritage Foundation.
First appeared in World Net Daily