American consumers spent an additional $105 million per day in 2004 for gasoline compared to 2003, according to the congressional report.
While it flies in the face of capitalism to suggest a corporation should cut back on revenues, the current situation has all the makings of a national crisis.
"The extraordinary high price of fuel means that cost reduction has gone beyond urgent," Giovanni Bisignani, director-general and CEO of the International Air Transport Association, told Business Week. "Fuel — the Fifth Horseman of the Apocalypse — is the biggest factor forcing the structural change and efficiency our industry desperately needs."
Mark Cliffe, the global head of economics and strategy at ING in London, told the magazine that Katrina's effect "probably the most serious challenge we face to growth since the Iraq war." Consumers will have to steel themselves to the fact that gas prices aren't going to come down, he added.
High gas prices not only affect consumers at the pump. They also contribute to higher heating costs. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) urged Bush to release $900 million for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program so needy people will be able to pay their heating bills this winter.
And higher gas prices affect the transportation industry — air and trucking costs, for example — which not only mean higher air ticket prices, but likely also higher costs for consumer items reliant on shipping.
The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources will meet Tuesday to discuss gas prices and the global impact. Harkin spokesperson Maureen Knightly said the meeting was moved up from later in the week.
The Bush administration has opened emergency oil stockpiles — a step Bush has previously said he would only do at a time of "national emergency." And European allies late last week pledged to send 30 million barrels of oil and gasoline from their emergency supplies to the United States to help bridge short-term supply disruptions.
But those are only short-term responses designed to prevent gas prices from surging even higher. Neither step will result in the lowering of prices. Neither will any continued discussion of opening up oil drilling in Alaska or national parks elsewhere in the U.S. — even if such steps were taken, consumers wouldn't see the results for several years.
The only answer is for Bush to be a leader, and put the interests of the average American ahead of his OPEC and corporate friends.
This article first appeared at Journalists Against Bush's B.S.