The price of gasoline is high because of the most basic economic law of all: supply and demand. We Americans are feeling the pain at the pump because of years of national self-indulgence, abetted by the government, in which we came to consider cheap and plentiful energy a God-given right.
Now that gas prices are soaring again, the politicians responsible for our plight are competing to see who can come up with the least effective ideas for dealing with it. Watching Republicans and Democrats in the capital doing what comes naturally is even more depressing than usual.
Republicans in Congress are proposing a $100 rebate to taxpayers to offset rising gas prices. That would cover the cost of about two tankfuls, and do nothing to encourage more efficient use of fuel. They have linked the idea -- no surprise -- to allowing drilling in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge, the oil companies' enduring dream. Even if there should prove to be commercially extractable oil in ANWR, drilling there would cover only a small percentage of the country's consumption -- and not deliver any oil at all for a decade or more.
The Democrats, for their part, want to temporarily suspend the 18.4-cents-a-gallon federal gas tax. This is a tax that should have been substantially increased years ago, as prophets like H. Ross Perot proposed, to encourage conservation and put the price markup into the U.S. Treasury rather than the pockets of oil companies, Saudi princes and Iranian bomb-rattlers. Suspending the tax would send the message that it's OK to continue to drive the Hummer to the corner store for a loaf of bread. What's needed today is the opposite message.
President Bush has temporarily suspended environmental rules to excuse refiners from having to use certain additives to meet clean-air standards. What a convenient idea for a pro-oil, anti-environment president to put forward; it's as if clean air is simply a luxury to be dispensed with whenever an excuse can be found. The tradeoff is unjustifiable. The president also wants Congress to give him the power to rewrite the CAFE rules -- an alarming thought, given that Mr. Bush and his administration for 5 1/2 years have opposed any legislative increase in the standards.
Mr. Bush is right about one thing: Congress should take back some of the billions of dollars in tax incentives it gave the oil companies in last year's energy bill. With record profits, the companies don't need the breaks, he said. Not that they ever did.
There's more. Go read it. You can just feel the frustration seeping out between every line.