Friday, March 9, 2012

Gas prices choking America

By Mike Ullery

Chief Photographer

I hope that everyone made a trip to their favorite gasoline station yesterday. If the fuel price prognosticators were correct, we are waking up to another significant price hike at the pumps.

We have been hearing for months that, by summer, we may be facing gasoline prices in the $5 per gallon range. On Friday morning, multiple websites warned that fuel could possibly jump by as much as $.50 per gallon by today.

I am like most Americans, at least I believe that I am. I rotate between frustration and anger at fuel prices in our country and ask, “Why won’t our government put a stop to the madness?”

I feel slightly hypocritical at my wish for government intervention as I am against our government sticking their nose into private business any more than absolutely necessary. My justification here is that petroleum products are, arguably, the most important commodity used by Americans. The price and availability of petroleum products directly affects nearly everything that we do.

The big petroleum companies are, no doubt, to blame for a large portion of our woes. I’m no economy expert but it is not hard to figure out that when Americans are struggling to make ends meet, then read that oil companies reported record profits, something is horribly wrong.

Rumors have been floating around for years that America’s quest for alternate energy sources have been thwarted at every turn by oil company lobbyists in Washington. It makes perfect sense that this might be true. If we find a way to unchain ourselves from oil dependence, oil company executives might have to give up two or three of their homes and whatever islands they may own. They have proven for decades that our best interests are of no concern to them.

You might notice that as fuel price fluctuate, they seem to skyrocket overnight, then take weeks to return to a not-quite-as-low-as-they-were level. Gasoline companies are simply following a standard retail method on pricing, quick to raise and slow to lower. This method helps the retailer’s bottom line. That is fine if we are talking about purchasing widgets. With a commodity such as gasoline, they are strangling consumers. What is worse is — they don’t care.

Many are telling Americans to purchase more fuel-efficient vehicles. For an already-struggling family, how much sense does it make to trade in a paid-for vehicle for an over-priced under-sized new car? All they are doing is trading extra money spent on fuel for a large car payment. Of course, vehicle manufacturers love this solution. What better way to market new cars? Let’s see. With that solution, oil companies are happy, car manufacturers are happy and Americans still get screwed.

In this case, I believe that it is time for our government to step in. I have my doubts that anything positive will emerge. There are too many elected officials, both Republican and Democrat, who are willing to use oil as a bargaining chip for their own purposes. Don’t forget the oil lobbyists who probably have some of our elected official “in their back pockets.”

It is the same old story, Congress is so busy being party-oriented, they forget that we have real problems that need a united front to overcome. Since this is a presidential election year, things are worse than ever.

My message, my plea, to our elected officials right now is, please forget politics. Please show the oil lobbyists the door. You do not need their dollars to get elected. All you have to do is represent your constituents best interests. If you do that, we promise that we will remember come election time.

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