Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Legislation fuels talk on gas prices.

Senate Republicans today blocked legislation to take a bite out of oil companies' profits. While I'm all for the free market system, government intervention makes sense.

Why can state attorneys general go after gas station owners for gouging consumers at the pump - remember $4/gallon gas after 9/11 - but our federal government can't go after corporations for gouging the American public?

It's not just filling up your tank that's hitting the wallets hard. The high fuel prices are driving up the cost of food and other products.

The oil companies are single-handedly driving a wedge between Americans for whom high gas prices are a minor inconvenience and those who have to save every penny so they can drive to work AND pay the bills.

Let's look at it like this. If you're stuck in a low-paying job (let's say $10/hour) and you drive 20 miles one-way to work, you're spending about 10 percent ($8 out of $80) of your pre-tax wage on transportation. By the time you take out taxes and insurance, the percentage is likely 20 percent or more.

Thirty years ago, everyone talked about how we need to conserve and come up with alternative energy sources. Wind and solar energy - along with other green technologies - are becoming more common. But two of our nation's largest industries with fuel interests -the oil and automobile companies - have been negligent in tackling the problem.

Our next president has an opportunity to set an agenda on this issue. But look to local officials as well. Put pressure on school boards and city and county governments to put some green technologies in new building projects. Whatever we do as a nation will require a collective effort, but we need our elected and business leaders to lead.

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