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High Fuel Prices and the Inevitable Game of Political Hot Potato

Copyright (c) 2008-2023

The price of gasoline raced passed the $4 per gallon mark and teases another race to $5 per gallon, and hard-working Americans across the country are bracing for the worst. The price of fuel is not just affecting the price at the pump, but it is also affecting the prices at the grocery store and at the department store.

Some of the factors that are directly affecting this inflationary cycle are outside the control of the U.S. Government, such as wheat and corn crops destroyed by flood waters in the Midwest, but other factors could be dampened, if only our political leaders had the will to influence real change.

Many economic analysts point to a weak dollar, speculative trading and growing demand from China and India as the driving force behind the astronomical increase in fuel prices. In testimony in front of Congress, Energy Policy Analyst, Kevin Book estimated that current oil usage is running at 97% of the current oil supply.

Wagging The Finger Of Blame

As American families are feeling the pinch of high gas prices, combined with high food prices, and businesses struggle with the economic downturn, our elected officials stick to their talking points and wag their fingers at other people in the blame game.

Today, in the area of energy policy, America is sorely in need of good leadership. But our leaders are neglecting us in this time of dire need.

Historically, we have had decent leaders over the last forty-years, with Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, daddy-Bush, Clinton, and Bush Jr. in the White House. Each of these individual Presidents had their strengths and their weaknesses.

I may have disliked at least one of these guys, and you may have disliked several of them. But regardless of our personal feelings for these men, if you are at least honest with yourself and the rest of us, you have to admit that each of these men have given us good leadership in certain areas.

My grandmother always told me to look for the positives in other people. She insisted that all people had some redeeming value as a human being, and I should seek that out in people, as others looked for the same in me.

Each of our last seven Presidents have brought something positive to the table, providing good leadership, each in their own unique ways.

Unfortunately, our last seven Presidents have all let us down in one very important area, and that area is energy policy. Today, we are paying the high price of ignoring a coming storm for 34 years.

And yet today, as we are in the midst of the economic storm, our leadership in the White House and in the Congress is more interested in finding someone to blame for the crisis, than in finding solutions that will help resolve this situation.

Some politicians are saying, "Oh, that solution will take ten years to reach fruition..." so they sit on their hands feeling justified that they said the right words. Well, if it really is something that takes ten years to bring to fruition, if we were to start today, it will be ten years, and if we sit on our hands another two years, then it will be twelve years before we find resolution.

Is it any wonder that the White House and Congress are suffering from such low approval ratings?

Weak Approval Ratings For President Bush And Congress

President Bush has been hovering in the 30's since the middle of 2006, and according to Real Clear Politics, his approval rating is right now sitting at 31.0% (

Congress has it much worse. Even though the Democrats managed to overtake the Republicans in the 2006 election cycle, their current approval rating is hovering near 18.5% according to Real Clear Politics (

Congress' current approval ratings are still lower than its approval rating in December 2006 (21%), when the Democrats won the majority in both houses of Congress. According to the Gallop folks, they began tracking this data in 1974, and Congress had reached its all-time low in August of 2007 when it reached its 18% approval rating. Congress' rankings have hovered in that range for most of the last year.

Previous lows included: the 19% approval rating in the summer of 1979, during the 1979 energy crisis; and ratings near 18% during the check-bouncing scandal in 1992. Congress enjoyed a brief 6-month honeymoon in the aftermath of the 2006 elections, and then ratings began to fall once again. (

The Why Of Our Current Situation

Beyond the lack of a coherent energy policy for the last three decades, our current Congressional and Presidential leaders are continuing to fail us today in the midst of this economic storm, by looking for the talking point that will allow them to sell the American public on who is to blame for the current crisis.

My vote in November will be for the people who appear to offer the best hope for fixing our current energy problems. This is something that has been dear to my heart, since I have been old enough to vote in the early 1980's. But as a voice in the wilderness, people were not listening to those who spoke of energy independence and alternative energy over the last three decades.

The "coming energy crisis" has always been tomorrow's problem, which meant that the difficult decisions could be passed to the future. Well, welcome to the future! The future energy crisis has finally arrived, and now we are going to pay for 34 years of inaction on energy.

What The Politicians Are Doing About Gas Prices...

When discussing energy, one should never put their faith into the words of politicians. Our politicians have done one thing, over and again, and that is to distort the answers to questions to support their political causes and to diminish the political positions of their opponents.

In June of 2008, House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey (D-Wis) said, "We are kidding ourselves if we think we can drill our way out of these problems." This comment was made to explain the House Appropriations Committee's rejection along party lines of a Republican proposal, to open up U.S. waters between 50 and 200 miles off shore for drilling.

Mr. Obey, I suggest we are kidding ourselves that we can solve this crisis, if we think we can ignore even one piece of the overall puzzle. Drilling is not the whole solution, but it is a major piece to the puzzle.

Congressional Wisdom

While Congress assures that new oil drilling will take ten years to produce new oil, oil-drilling companies suggest that they can bring up the oil in only a few years. Whomever is right on this point, we will get the oil out of the ground sooner if we take action now, as opposed to waiting another two or thirty years until we say yes to new drilling.

Congress assures us that the oil companies currently have the rights to drill on 68 million acres of ground, and they say oil companies should drill that land first. Currently, one quarter of that ground already is being used for drilling. But, let's ask an important question. Is it better to mine gold in New York City where we do not know if gold exists, or should we mine for gold in California where we know there is gold? That is what Congress is telling oil companies to do... drill for oil where they do not know if oil exists, instead of drilling for oil where everyone knows there is oil.

Of course, I am not the only one talking about these issues. The Business And Media Institute recently did a lengthy analysis of how the press is sticking to the "anti-oil talking points", so much so that they are ignoring public opinion and industry experts: (

Oil Usage And Supply

According to statistics provided by the federal Energy Information Administration (, the assertion that the growth of oil consumption in China and India really is a real factor in the price pressures on a barrel of oil is true.

Since 2000, Chinese consumption has grown by 67% or 3.22 million barrels of oil per day. Other Asian countries are consuming an additional 1.5 million barrels of oil per day, against the 2000 data. And, third-world countries have also increased their consumption by 3.4 million barrels per day.

In fact, total world consumption has increased by 9.72 million barrels per day, since 2000.

Between 2000 and 2005, American fuel consumption continued to grow unabated. When fuel prices started climbing in the United States in 2005, US consumption began to decline. The United States still consumes 20.41 million barrels of oil per day, five-times as much oil as the next five top oil-consuming countries combined.

Since 2005 American consumption has dropped by 1.85%. It is a step in the right direction, but just as we cannot drill our way out of this crisis, we cannot rely solely on conservation as a long-term solution either.

Reducing our fuel use is a temporary step we can take towards resolving our current fuel crisis, but with the growth of consumption in China, India and in other countries, conservation will only help us until the next crisis. Next time around, no amount of conservation will help us.

Steps We Must Take

Americans as individual consumers can do some of these steps on their own. Some of these steps will require government intervention.

Auto manufacturers will never embrace Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) as a fuel source under the current regulatory conditions. It is simply too expensive for any automaker to consider CNG as a viable automotive fuel technology. Natural gas burns cleaner, is in great supply domestically, and costs the equivalent of less than one dollar per gallon in today's market.

NGVAmerica ( states that there are more than 7 million NGVs in use worldwide, but only 150,000 of those vehicles are in use in the United States. They have put together a detailed report showing how regulations in the U.S. have ensured that automotive manufacturers and after-market providers will stay away from NGV-technology for the indeterminate future: (

What Government must do:

Streamline the processes for approving and building:

  • Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) fueled vehicles (NGV).

  • New oil drilling platforms and oil refineries;

  • New nuclear power plants (which are currently operating safely around the world in dozens of countries);

  • Right-of-Ways for electric transmission lines for Wind-, Solar- and Wave- generated electricity (

  • Individual consumers should consider:

  • Solar Panels and small home-sized wind generators;

  • Green technology in the home;

  • When replacing a vehicle, buy hybrid vehicles (combining gasoline and electric);

  • Use proven fuel-conservation techniques with existing equipment (home and car).

  • In Conclusion

    We need to stop looking where to place blame for our energy problems. The time has come for us to start building a regulatory environment where we can start solving the problems we face, now.

    Oil drilling may not be the long-term solution that any of us seek, but more oil availability will help us to stay afloat until we can transition our economy to greener technologies.

    Government needs to enable private industry to build the technologies of tomorrow and to support the industries that can help us today. When our government gives the American people the ability to excel, the American people always come through and meet the challenges put in front of them. Let's cut through the red tape and get our economy going forward once again.

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