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Gas Tax Nonsense and Fundamental Energy Industry Change

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Stephen Crockett
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The idea being promoted by both John McCain and Hillary Clinton of canceling the federal gasoline tax for the summer is a terrible idea. It fails to address the real issue of runaway fuel prices. It has negative consequences for the safety of our roads and bridges. It is essentially a campaign stunt and distraction. The oil profiteers have already gobbled up any benefit consumers might gain from the cut far in advance of the proposed summer suspension.

Runaway fuel prices are largely the result of market manipulation by speculators and oil companies combined with a “nod and wink” approach to government regulation and law enforcement from the Bush Administration. We need serious government intervention instead of cosmetic window dressing.

Gasoline inventories are rising at the same time that prices are skyrocketing! Oil companies have been intentionally closing refineries to raise prices. The Bush administration has been taking huge quantities off the market by continuing to fill a strategic reserve when the federal government should be releasing the reserve to drive down the prices and breaking the power of speculators.

The federal taxes on fuel are a very tiny percentage of the total price. Gasoline prices rose nationally last month by nearly twice the amount of the federal gas tax. While the suspension of the gasoline tax sounds good, it does nothing but slow the price rise for a couple of weeks while gutting our ability to maintain our roads and bridges.

We already have bridges collapsing and citizens dying. Our transportation safety issue is really important. It is already in a crisis situation without following this irresponsible proposal. We need a huge increase in transportation infrastructure spending by the federal government instead of a dramatic decrease. We need to spend hundreds of billions of dollars over the next few years on rebuilding our national economic infrastructure. We should be training millions of new construction workers by giving our construction unions support for their apprenticeship and training programs. The money has to come from somewhere.

McCain and Clinton are pushing a proposal that is irresponsible and will not even occur under their terms if elected. Neither will be in the White House this summer.

There are some ideas that will help. Aggressive investigations and prosecutions in the oil industry are certainly in order. Illegal price manipulation is likely. Strengthening laws and penalties for market manipulation should be a top priority. All profits derived from illegal market manipulation should be surrendered to the federal government along with huge additional penalties. The law should immediately be changed to make this the standard.

All oil imports should be done through the federal government. The federal government should negotiate the price from a position of strength. Oil companies should not be able to drive up prices by bidding against competitors for imports and using the process as an excuse for price-gouging.

We need a strong “windfall profits tax” on the oil industry. This tax should be used to promote alternative energy and to subsidize the trucking industry fuel costs, which is driving up consumer inflation on other products like food.

Oil refinery closings should only be permitted by the federal government when they do not result in huge price increases. If necessary, the federal government should build their own refineries to supply the American military and feral government vehicles. We should end the Iraq War which is wasting huge quantities of fuel needed by the homeland.

If all else fails, the federal government should consider price controls on fuel and/or nationalizing the oil industry. The oil industry cannot be permitted to control the entire American economy for the benefit of the very, very few.

McCain and Clinton should stop playing politics with the gas tax issue. They should be aggressively pushing for alternative energy solutions like solar, wind, conservation, bio-fuels, Green jobs and technology along with much more federal regulation of the oil companies.

Written by Stephen Crockett (host of Democratic Talk Radio http://www.DemocraticTalkRadio.com and Editor of Mid-Atlantic Labor.com http://www.midatlanticlabor.com).

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Stephen Crockett is co-host of Democratic Talk Radio and author of the Democratic Voices opinion column.
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