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Relief at the Gas Pump is Four Simple Steps Away

Op-Ed

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Location: Memphis, TN


Relief At The Gas Pump Is Four Simple Steps Away

Special Coulmn For The Commercial Appeal by Rep. Marsha Blackburn

Blackburn Leads Charge Against High Gas Prices

Blackburn on the Price of Gasoline: Memphis Live at 9

As I write this, it costs more to put gas in our cars than ever before. In a single month, the price at the pump in Memphis went up 30 cents, and it has risen more than 75 cents a gallon over the past year. It costs busy mothers in West Tennessee about $220 to fill up the minivan each month. That is $86 more than it cost in January 2007, when Democrats took control of Congress.

Of course, I am telling you what you already know. Gas prices are too high, and they are a primary cause of the problem I hear about from Memphians every day: "There is just too much month left at the end of my money."

The family budget is now a laboratory for a national energy experiment that is reducing the domestic supply of oil and increasing demand for foreign oil. A few of my colleagues and I have solutions that will reverse this course. Congress can take four simple actions to bring the price at the pump down. Some will show an immediate result, while others are long-term solutions, but they all rely on much-needed congressional action.

Temporarily lift the federal gas tax. As a long-term policy option, this idea is more than problematic. For short-term relief, however, nothing will bring the price at the pump down faster, and right now Tennessee families need relief more than the government needs cash.

I support temporarily lifting the gas tax until Labor Day, along with a concurrent one-year moratorium on wasteful budget earmarks and pork-barrel projects. Funds from those could be diverted to the Highway Trust Fund to compensate for the temporary loss of fuel tax revenues. I have already sworn off such wasteful spending, and encourage my colleagues to follow suit.

Promote production of American-made energy. As long as demand for oil continues to increase and its supply remains fixed, the price at the pump will never come down. In the short term, however, signaling to OPEC that the United States will begin to increase its domestic supply of oil will encourage member nations to bring down their prices.

Over the longer term, we must take steps to exploit new sources of energy. This doesn't mean we have to damage the environment. For example, Congress could advance the commercialization of the nation's 2 trillion-barrel shale oil resource, 80 percent of which occurs on government-owned land in the West. This resource alone could supply all of America's needs for more than two centuries.

Cut red tape. Perhaps the best thing the government can do to bring the price of gas down is to get out of the way. For example, did you know that the "premium" gas you pump in Tennessee is different from the "premium" they pump in California? Government regulations promote the production of "boutique" fuels blended to meet the standards set by various states. To do so, oil refineries must produce fuels in small batches. Setting a single standard for regular, midgrade and premium gasoline would allow refineries to produce in bulk and save us all money.

Speaking of refineries, one hasn't been built in this country since the late 1970s. Clearing the Environmental Protection Agency's red tape to expedite new refining capacity would also bring prices down.

Conservation tax incentives. Americans also increase supply when we conserve energy, so the government should encourage those who pursue efficiency. That means making home energy-efficiency upgrades tax deductible, giving incentives to builders who make homes and buildings more energy-efficient, extending solar and fuel cell investment tax credits, and increasing the energy efficiency of government buildings.

These four steps must be at the very top of Congress' agenda if we are to keep the economy moving this summer.


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