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Jack Fichter – 5.3.2006

By Jack Fichter

Blame Yourself and Government for Gas Prices
Gasoline is in short supply. So, here I sit in a line of cars waiting to purchase eight gallons of gas, all the service station would allow today.
Maybe I should trade in this Ford Galaxy 500. Galaxy 500? Yes, the year was 1973, I was in high school and this nation had a gas problem 33 years ago.
So how did the federal government use the past 33 years to break our dependence on foreign oil and develop new energy sources? They did nothing.
I remember reading a story in Popular Science magazine in the 1970s about a prototype of a new of car being made in Japan by Daihatsu. It was called a hybrid and had both an electric and small gas powered engine. Now, 30 years later, hybrids are expensive and in short supply.
Seems to me we have had 30 years to build and perfect the hybrid and perhaps produce large quantities of ethanol, made from corn or soybeans, or hydrogen fuel cell powered cars. But that did not happen.
What kind of cars have we been buying in the past 30 years? While some of us have been buying sensible small cars, we have also had trends that caused millions to buy van conversions in the 70s and 80s and sport utility vehicles for the past 10 years.
In Brazil, drivers are filling up their cars with ethanol instead of gasoline. Brazil has announced it will achieve energy independence this year.
Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida, in one of the Democratic Party’s weekly radio addresses, said the Bush Administration’s emphasis is on drilling, a strategy many experts say won’t make a dent in the U.S. oil problem.
Can we lower the price per gallon by decreasing gas taxes? The federal tax on gasoline is 18.4 cents per gallon. New Jersey levies another 14.5 cents on top of that for a total of 32.5 cents a gallon.
How about taxing the huge profits of the oil companies instead? The oil industry and Republican leaders have opposed a windfall tax on oil companies, claiming it would limit exploration to find and produce new oil.
Exxon-Mobil reported their highest ever quarterly profit in the fourth quarter last year of $10.7 billion compared to $8.4 billion, a year earlier. That’s profit, not gross sales.
For the year the Exxon Mobil earned net income of $36.1 billion. That’s up 31 percent from the $25.9 billion it earned a year earlier. Exxon-Mobil paid their retiring CEO Lee Raymond a $400 million retirement package.
The nation’s largest independent refiner, Valero Energy Corp. reported first-quarter profits 60 percent greater than the same period in 2005.
The Bush Administration, last month, made a tiny change in required fuel economy standards for SUVs, pickup trucks and minivans. It raises the requirement by only 1.8 mpg by 2011 to 24 mpg.
According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, the administration could have saved one million gallons per day in 2025, if it had simply raised the standard to 26 mpg by 2011.
The fuel economy of new U.S. light trucks is lower than it was 20 years ago.
The Sierra Club projects if automakers were required to make all new vehicles average 40 mpg in the next 10 years, the U.S. would save more oil that is currently imported from the Persian Gulf and could ever extract from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge combined.
Unfortunately, we have a national energy policy set by Vice President Dick Cheney and representatives of big oil in closed meetings in 2001. A document obtained by The Washington Post showed that officials from Exxon-Mobil, Conoco, Shell, and BP America met with Cheney.
Oil industry experts tell us the market sets the price and with great demand from a nation of gas guzzling vehicles, that will remain the same. The experts also tell us instability in oil producing nations raises the price per barrel.
Our presence in Iraq and threatening Iran has certainly added to destabilizing the region.
We have sent many jobs to China and India. Thanks to that residents of those nations are buying cars and using quantities of gas never predicted.
What can you do about high gas prices? Drive less, obviously, and buy as small a car as you can comfortably use.
Drive slower. Drive 55 on the parkway, stay in the right lane, and let people pass you. The EPA estimates a 10-15% improvement by driving 55 instead of 65 mph.
Maybe we should also pass by Exxon-Mobil stations.
 

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