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Congress Takes Action Against Rising Gas Prices

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The U.S. House of Representatives, responding to citizen complaints about high gas prices, voted yesterday to pass the "Gas Tax Relief Act of 2007". In an effort to lower consumer burden during the summer driving months, Congress has rolled back the 18.4 cents per gallon federal tax on gasoline, and sent a strong message to the individual States whose gasoline taxes are as high as 33 cents per gallon to do the same. If the States were to follow the Federal Government's lead this could mean a reduction in gasoline prices by an average of 40 cents per gallon, with the higher taxed States saving as much as 51 cents per gallon.

If you are wondering why you have not read about the "Gas Tax Relief Act of 2007" in the newspaper, the answer is simple. There is no such legislation being proposed in Congress.

What the House of Representatives voted on yesterday was the "No Oil Producing and Exporting Cartels Act of 2007", or NOPEC. The bill which passed by a 345-72 vote, would revoke the sovereign immunity OPEC members currently enjoy from U.S. legal action and allow the Justice Department to sue them in U.S. courts.

Rather than pass legislation which would have an immediate impact on American consumers, the House decided to pass legislation which would take years to show any results. Unfortunately, this legislation, if passed into law, may actually produce higher gasoline prices if OPEC decides to retaliate by lowering production.

Approximately 40% of our country's oil is provided by OPEC members. It would not be a wise decision to make enemies of them by filing lawsuits in U.S. courts. As an alternative, Congress should be looking for ways to lower America's dependence on OPEC, either through alternative means of energy, or alternative sources of oil.

For over 20 years the controversy over drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) has been ongoing, with several attempts to open the region for drilling defeated. In the 1990s, President George H.W. Bush's National Energy Bill authorized drilling in ANWR, but a filibuster by Senate Democrats kept the measure from coming to a vote. In 1995, Republicans prepared to take up the battle again and included a provision for ANWR in the federal budget. President Bill Clinton vetoed the entire budget and expressed his intention to veto any other bill that would open ANWR to drilling.

In 1998 a U.S Geological Survey estimated there to be at least 5.7 billion billion barrels of recoverable oil, with possibly as much as 16 billion barrels. If drilling were to take place in this region the influx of oil into the market place would cause prices to go down, effectively ending the "crisis".

Congress has largely ignored alternative means of reducing consumer gas prices and opted for judicial action instead. Interestingly, the bill only refers to foreign States who attempt "to set or maintain the price of oil, natural gas, or any petroleum product." Apparently, domestic States would be considered exempt from this legislation.

Currently there are about a dozen States which have price controls on gasoline, not to stipulate a maximum price, but to set a minimum price. Recently, in Wisconsin, a gas station owner was threatened with a lawsuit from State regulators unless he raised his prices. The service station owner had offered a 2 cent per gallon discount to senior citizens. The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture said those deals violate Wisconsin’s Unfair Sales Act, which requires stations to sell gas for about 9.2 percent more than the wholesale price.

Rather than address solutions which Congress has direct control over, they have decided to do what most Americans do when they are unhappy. Sue!

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About Charles Signorile

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/clavos Clavos

    Florida’s Miami-Dade county is considering a reduction in the local tax on gasoline.

    I think this is a big mistake; demand nationwide is already higher, despite the runup in prices, and reducing taxes will only increase demand, making us even more dependent on foreign oil than we already are.

    I do think we should open ANWR.

    The action in Wisconsin is nothing short of disgusting.

  • Nancy

    Since states depend on their gas taxes to provide the legislators with funds with which to rob Peter to pay Paul (few gas tax funds are protected by state law to prevent this kind of dipping by state politicomaggots to pay for their favorite projects…kind of like Social Security, y’know?), all this is going to do is make the states & local govts scramble for a way to raise the same funds elsewhere, most likely thru property taxes or sales taxes, I’ll bet.

    More useless posturing & shit from those greasebags up on The Hill.

  • Dr Dreadful

    I don’t think we should open ANWR.

    It’s the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge, not the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge Unless We Find Oil There.

    We should take the contentious location of this oil as a sign and an encouragement to explore alternatives, instead of continual new drilling which is just putting off the inevitable.

  • http://www.elitebloggers.com Dave Nalle

    Dr. D. In general I agree that habitats should be preserved up to a reasonable point. But if you actually do some studying on ANWR you’ll soon realize that what’s being preserved there is not unique or indispensible and that the impact of drilling would absolutely not do significant harm to the species there. We’ve even got examples of prior habitat incursions which had positive impact on the populations of those species.

    dave

  • http://www.elitebloggers.com Dave Nalle

    Charles, in this case it seems like the domestic gas companies may be innocent. There’s no indication that they’ve been gouging, and they control a relatively small amount of the oil supply. The OPEC powers set the prices and everyone else follows. BTW did you hear that Iran jacked their gas price by 25% today?

    But be happy. It’s a good thing. The higher the price per gallon goes the faster the marketplace will push us into economizing and alternative fuels.

    Meanwhile I’m cruising along on biodiesel that’s costing me between $1.50 (from a coop when they have it) to $2.75 (commercially produced from virgin soy oil) a gallon. Take that, Ahmedinejad.

    Dave

  • bliffle

    This is TOTALLY almost beautiful…

    “…drilling would absolutely not do significant harm…”

  • Nancy

    The only problem with running vehicles on cooking oil is that the constant smell of fried chicken makes you constantly hungry. I wonder if there’s a study on whether or not the owners of converted vehicles gain weight once they start using Kentucky Fried to fuel the ol SUV…?

  • http://www.elitebloggers.com Dave Nalle

    I’m running mostly on oil from fried corn chips, shrimp and catfish, so it’s more of a mexican seafood smell.

    Dave

  • Dr Dreadful

    I’ll have a number 3 with a shrimp taco and chips and salsa on the side, please, Dave.

  • Nancy

    2 fish fillets, shrimp, hold the hush puppies & fries, thanks.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/clavos Clavos

    “hold the hush puppies???”

    Damn yankees!!!

  • Dar

    Ron Paul introduced the Affordable Gas Price Act on May 21. This removes some government energy constraints and suspends Federal taxes when prices get above a certain level.

  • wr

    oil from opec at 140.00 per barrel, Let’s go to 175.00 per bushel for wheat, and other food products. We can eat our product, but can the eat their oil…Why be Mr. helpful, when all they are trying to do is destroy our economy with fuel prices. Hey, I’ll eat more and drive less..OPEC countries will not be able to say the same. It’s time to get tough with our resources.

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