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Pro: Motorists should blame Bush administration not Congress for pump pain

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Amy Isaacs
May 31, 2008
— When George W. Bush was first “elected” a friend of mine said, “It’s time to buy stock in Exxon.”

We had a good laugh. Seven years later, I wish I had called my broker. Gas is more than twice what it cost in 2000 and oil companies are posting the largest profits gained by any American company. Ever! Worse, there seems to be no end in sight.


President Bush has led us into the greatest energy crisis we have witnessed in more than 30 years. When a minimum-wage worker spends an entire day’s wage just to fill the tank, it is time for Congress to do something.


When the poor, the elderly and others living on a fixed income can no longer heat their homes, it’s time for Congress to do something. When food costs spiral as a direct result of fuel prices and jeopardize the health and welfare of untold Americans, it’s time for Congress to do something.


After 12 years of Republican misrule, the current Democratic Congress is making an effort, but it must go further quickly.


Last year, it passed the first increase in fuel efficiency standards in more than 30 years, raising the standard all cars must meet to 35 mpg by 2020. The same bill provided incentives for the production of clean renewable fuels, to increase the efficiency of appliances, products, and buildings and to promote research that will lead to greater energy independence.


Congress also stood up to the Bush administration’s attempt to hand even more profits to oil companies at the expense of a national treasure — the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve. One of the most pristine environments left on Earth, ANWR is thought to have between 7 billion and 16 billion barrels of oil. Not enough to make any difference in oil prices but enough to destroy forever the environment had Congress given in and allowed drilling.


If you really want to know who is leading the way on energy issues though, look to state and local governments.


State governments long have been an incubator for legislation not ready for prime time. California, for example, mandated a reduction in its greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels and consistently puts energy and environmental issues at the center of the legislature’s agenda. It also passed laws pioneering renewable resource research and use. Cities across the country are banning plastic bags and water bottles and investing in public transportation upgrades.


The federal government, however, remains in a tug of war between providing inexpensive fuel to Americans and loyalty to energy companies and manufacturers who line their campaign coffers. It increased fuel standards, but not enough so that car manufacturers take seriously their responsibility to offer consumers a better choice. It provided money for alternative fuel research, but gave tax payer dollars to oil companies to build more refineries.


Americans deserve more! It is going to take a real ideological shift for our public leaders to understand that the energy crisis is a problem that is not going to be solved without intense social action made possible with government support.


It is not so great a leap and one that provides great campaign rhetoric if that’s what our leaders need to get started.


A real investment in new forms of energy could create more than 3-million new jobs. That’s good news for any candidate looking for a plan to get elected. The construction of windmills and hydro-electric power plants, upgrading factories and buildings, rebuilding infrastructure to accommodate smaller cars and bikes, and expanding public transportation will take people — lots of them.


With any luck, by the time the next president takes office, my friend will be saying it is time to buy stock in green energy producers. This time, I will listen.



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