Elected officials offer their views on $4-per-gallon dilemma
The following views are drawn from a mix of essays and press releases from our elected representatives:
to take action
Rep. Dave Camp, R-Midland
In the last two weeks Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has had us voting on World Glaucoma Day, recognizing 2008 as the International Year of the Reef, and putting the House on record as supporting a National Watermelon Month. Now, we didnt actually create a National Watermelon Month; we just said there should be one.
There is serious work to do, but it is not being done by this Congress. No wonder Americans are frustrated with Congress. So am I.
Of course, when she was in the minority, Pelosi promised big things...she promised a plan to immediately lower gas prices. Well, that plan has remained a secret these past 16 months and gas prices have shot up $1.20 since she and the Democrats took over Congress. Thats right...the nationwide price for gas has gone up $1.20 since January 1, 2007. Call it the Pelosi Premium.
We need to eliminate the Pelosi Premium, which has added an extra $25 every time you fill up your car. A decade ago, I began pushing alternative energy in the auto industry because transportation makes up 75 percent of our oil consumption. We are now just beginning to see the impact of alternative fuel and hybrid vehicles. But that is only part of the solution.
I believe there are a number of fairly simple, straightforward approaches we can take, if we had the political courage to do so, to lower gas prices in America.
1. Use domestic oil before buying oil from the Middle East.
We have 50 years worth of energy in Alaska and the deep waters of the Outer Continental Shelf. We can tap these in environmentally friendly ways and we should do it today!
2. Increase the number of refineries in the United States.
In 1981, 324 refineries were operating in the United States. In 2005, that number stands at 148 less than half! Unless we increase domestic production, prices will not drop. And we can do that by cutting the red tape, streamlining the permitting process and utilizing federal property like old military bases to build new facilities.
3. Get the Alma Energy Park up and running.
The oil wells in Alma at the old Total refinery can help stabilize prices right here in the region. Experts suggest that by using new technology that blasts CO2 into the old wells (sort of like shaking up a pop bottle) we could get as much as half the oil that is still down there.
4. Continue to promote alternative fuels, vehicles, and infrastructure.
Ethanol is a bridge to the future, but it is not the sole solution. I have authored a new law that provides consumers with a tax credit for the purchase of a new hybrid, lean burn diesel, or other clean fuel car or truck. My plan also provides incentives for gasoline retailers who convert their traditional fuel pumps and tanks to those using clean fuels.
If we can get some of this done, we will start to change the direction we are heading in.
Stop filling Strategic
Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Menominee
The U.S. House of Representatives has voted on to suspend filling the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) through the end of the year if the price of crude oil remains above $75 a barrel. The action would inject an additional 70,000 barrels of oil per day into the U.S. market to help stabilize the U.S. oil supply and provide some relief at the pump for consumers.
Oil economists estimate suspending the flow of oil into the SPR could lower gas prices by 5 to 24 cents per gallon.
I have long advocated for this action and am a cosponsor of H.R. 6022, which passed the House by a veto-proof majority of 385-25.
Filling the Strategic Petroleum Reserve didnt make sense when gas prices were approaching $2 a gallon in 2005 and it certainly doesnt make sense today with prices hovering around $4.
The president has the authority to suspend SPR deliveries without congressional action but despite repeated bipartisan calls to do so has refused to take action to address the current energy crisis.
Bush has threatened to veto the House bill if it reaches his desk and the White House has stated that the administration plans to expand the size of the SPR.
With the reserve 97 percent full and oil at an all-time high, now is not the time to continue filling the SPR.
At current prices, the Department of Energy spends more than $8.5 million a day to stockpile oil which, in turn, drives up demand. Its the families in Northern Michigan and across the country struggling to fill their gas tanks who ultimately pay the price for these policies.
The SPR is an emergency stockpile of petroleum maintained by the U.S. Department of Energy. Congress created the SPR in 1975 in order to protect from future supply disruptions after oil supplies were cut off during the 1973-74 oil embargo. The SPR is the largest emergency stockpile of oil in the world, with the capacity to hold up to 727 million barrels of crude oil. The SPR currently contains more oil than it ever has. With 703 million barrels of oil, it is at 97 percent of its total capacity and contains enough oil to meet U.S. demand for 58 days if oil imports were cut off completely.
Police oil companies
& tax windfall profits
Senator Carl Levin, D-Michigan
Because the Bush Administration has proved itself unable and unwilling to make the necessary changes in its economic, foreign, and energy policies to provide affordable energy supplies to the American people, it is up to the Congress to try to jumpstart a comprehensive solution to skyrocketing energy prices.
The Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, which I chair, has conducted four separate investigations into how our energy markets can be made to work better. As a result of these investigations and hearings, I have advocated the following four measures:
Put a cop back on the beat in the energy markets to ensure these markets are free from excessive speculation and manipulation;
Stop filling the Strategic Petroleum Reserve until prices are lower;
Develop alternatives to fossil fuels to lessen our dependence on oil; and
Impose a windfall profits tax on oil companies that have profited from the unjustified price increases.
Suspend state gas tax
State Rep. Kevin Elsenheimer
Rep. Kevin Elsenheimer will be at the Marathon Gas Station in Mackinaw City on Monday, May 19 at 2 p.m. to unveil an initiative to temporarily eliminate the 6-percent state sales tax on gasoline through Labor Day, to help drivers during the summer months.
These costs add up quick on family budgets that are already being stretched to the limits for many Northern Michigan households, Elsenheimer said. Were encouraging people to adapt their driving habits where they can, and suspending the states gas sales tax can help while people make adjustments to our current situation. Every bit helps.
The price for a gallon of gas is now over $4 a gallon in many areas up north. The cost for a gallon of gas at $4 includes 61.5 cents in taxes per gallon - 18.5 cents Federal Gas Tax, 19 cents State Gas Tax and 24 cents sales tax.
Elsenheimer sent a letter to the House Transportation Committee almost a year ago asking for immediate action to be taken on similar legislation to that would lower gas prices overnight. We can talk about long term strategies to solve our energy crisis until were blue in the face, said Elsenheimer. Everyone supports alternative technologies, but unfortunately these technologies wont help us today, what we need now is immediate relief at the pump and there is only one simple way to get that, reduce taxes. Why should the state profiteer off high gas prices?