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Today, Sunday the 30th of April, the average price for a gallon of regular gas is the District of Columbia is $3.06. One month ago, the average price for a gallon of regular gas in the District of Columbia was $2.61. Gas prices have gone up nearly $.50 a gallon in one month in DC. For people like me who have 16 gallon tanks, that’s an extra $8.00 every time we fill up the car. It’s the highest it’s been since the weeks following Hurricane Katrina when prices climbed to $3.40. I personally remember scouring Georgetown one day in August with a friend and finding nothing under $3.60. Luckily, prices calmed down to around $2.00 a gallon or so in November of 2005, but here we are again, looking at prices over $3.00 a gallon.

Now, I drive a 2001 Jeep Cherokee Sport. It gets 12 MPG city and 18 MPG highway. If I drove as often as an average person in the DC area, I would be paying upwards of $150 or more a month. There are a million ways to be smart about conserving gas. Use the metro to get to work. If you’re going a short distance, walk or bike. If you’re shopping for a new car, try buying a hybrid. But with fill ups costing $50, college students looking to drive home for the weekend are wrestling with their own budget. In today’s New York Times, you can read about a student at Brandeis University who was excited about getting her brother’s 2004 Dodge Neon. But the car sits in the parking lot outside her apartment now. Another student, this one at Seton Hall, can’t drive home to Connecticut on weekends to see her family. Another student at Northwestern says he might turn down a $10 an hour delivery job because it requires him to drive his own car and pay for gas.

What is the Republican plan to help alleviate the energy crisis? Give Americans a $100 gas rebate. This is the bill being proposed by Senators Grassley, Stevens, Domenici, and Santorum. Is it just me, or does this sound utterly ridiculous to anyone else? Instead of searching for a real solution to the problem like Democrats who want to investigate the oil companies and enact federal legislation to punish price gougers, the Republicans are content to throw a little money at the problem in hopes of shutting up Americans. $100 will do nothing. It’s two tanks of gas with the prices the way they are now. The Republican leadership is conducting business as usual and protecting Big Oil at the expense of the American economy. ExxonMobil, between January and March of this year, recorded profits of $8.4 billion…$8.4 billion in profit in three months. This after Lee Raymond, the former chairman of ExxonMobil received a $400 million retirement package after leaving the company last year. He says that critics of the huge profits “don’t understand oil”. He probably wasn’t being asked about internal memos from the 1990’s that detail plans to purposely reduce refining capacities to raise profits.

Here’s the truth: Republicans think short-term. That’s why their plans seem so sexy to voters. They say, “give them a hundred bucks, let us drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge so we can destroy it and have enough oil to last us six months. Let us cut your taxes so you can get a $300 check- you’ll be able to get that foot massager from Sharper Image!” But with President Bush rejecting a call for a tax on oil company windfall profits, in the midst of $3 a gallon prices at the pump, the average American voter has to ask themselves: Are the Republican really looking out for my best interest? I think not, and with President Bush’s approval ratings in the low 30’s, the American people seem to be making their voices heard.


Rach C said...

This proposal is another example of how out-of-touch Republicans in Congress are with the average American. The reality is, this initiative is nothing more than a $100-a-person handout to the oil industry that the Republicans are in bed with.
Instead, we should be investigating the price gouging by monopolistic oil companies, as Ben rightly argues. But we must also take these rising prices as a sign that America's dependency on oil as an energy source is unsustainable at its current rate. Supplies of this natural resource are not unlimited, and as we exhaust the most easily accessible oil fields, gas will only become more and more expensive as we work harder to get to the oil. Instead of granting more indulgences to the oil companies, we should be spending our tax dollars investigating alternative sources of energy, such as hydrogen fuel, ethanol, and solar power. This is what Congress should be focusing on, instead of bribing the oil industry like a 3rd grader handing over his lunch money to the schoolyard bully.

OrSkolnik said...

Terrific post; I completely agree. What Democrats need to do now is give a vision for how our energy will look in the future. We can't keep doing this "We'll reveal our plan soon!" thing; we need to counter these ridiculous (but sexy) plans with something visionary that America can get excited about. Environmentalism aside, I don't know any Americans (I don't have any oil tycoon friends :( )who would rather we export our energy from Saudi Arabia than produce it here in the United States. A real investment in making alternative energy affordable and practical isn't just for environmentalists; it's for jobs and national security too. That's the vision we need to put forth now.

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