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High Fuel Prices:
We’re All Part of the Problem
Column by Sen. Trent Lott       Filed 4/28/06 GCN

 The first step in curing America’s dependence on foreign oil and curbing gas prices is admitting that we’re all part of the problem – politicians and consumers alike.  When we acknowledge the problem and earnestly seek solutions, we then can take each prescription seriously – including conservation, more domestic production, more alternative fuels, and more fuel efficient vehicles.

  In the Short Term:  Congress and the President can take several steps right now to halt soaring fuel costs.  Congress can, and should, relax the stringent requirements requiring different fuel blends for each region of our country.  The President took the initiative this week to halt deposits to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, a “rainy day” fund for fuel supplies.  This move will help free up some petroleum supply as we head into the busy summer travel season, but I’d like to see the President actually release some oil from this reserve before gas prices average $4 a gallon.  Critics will argue the reserve is only for emergencies, but with fuel prices already at record levels, I’d say today’s prices certainly qualify for emergency status.

Following Hurricane Katrina, Congress temporarily suspended federal rules requiring various “blends” of fuel.  These so-called “boutique” blends drive up the cost of fuel considerably by posing more delivery and distribution hurdles.  This is happening as more states replace a fuel additive called “MTBE” with ethanol, which is made from corn.  Ethanol is fine, but requiring that refineries produce special blends for certain geographic areas increases costs across the country.  The President now should waive these rules.

Finally, for the short term, I’m telling the oil companies they’ve got to be more realistic with their profits and curtail their outlandish executive salaries, too.  Until they show corporate responsibility, Congress will keep punitive actions like windfall profits taxes on the table and be prepared to respond in the event of any finding that oil companies are manipulating prices.

For the Long-Term:  We’ve got to look at our energy problem from a long-term perspective.  This means more domestic energy production in the Gulf of Mexico, in Alaska and wherever energy reserves may be.  The “not in my backyard” attitude, which many Americans hold toward drilling, is dangerous.  It’s making us more and more dependent on foreign oil from nations with Marxist, anti-American dictators like Venezuela.

I give great credit to Mississippians who are doing more than our part right now in energy production.  The Grand Gulf Nuclear Power Plant is poised for expansion, and Chevron Pascagoula, the second largest refinery in America, is expanding its facility. 

But nationally, there still  are too many barriers to energy production.  Washington must jettison some of the extreme environmentalist philosophies from the halls of Congress.  Such folks stifle solutions and relish high fuel prices.  They’d force you out of your car, off your motorcycle and even grab your lawn mower and weed whacker, if they could.  As prices climb, these groups get louder, calling for more regulations and less energy production, the disastrous recipe that got us into our current mess. 

At the same time, Americans should conserve more.  I don’t think the government should tell people what to drive, but I do think responsible Americans should try to moderate their fuel usage. Whenever possible, drive a smaller car, go the speed limit and ride together.  These simple changes can save a lot of fuel and a lot of money.

To those who are against conservation, against smaller cars, against  nuclear power, against clean coal technology, against liquefied natural gas, against building new refineries and even against windmills because you don’t like their look, get realistic.  If Americans are going to solve our energy problems, we’ve got to stop listening to who’s against what and start asking what we are for.  When it comes to America’s foreign oil addiction, we’re part of the problem, and we can solve it. 

Senator Lott welcomes any questions or comments about this column. 

Write to: U.S. Senator Trent Lott, 487 Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510 (Attn: Press Office) or Email

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