For most families, summer means little league games, 4th of July parades, and backyard barbeques. But in recent years, America has added a new, unwelcome summer tradition: rising gas prices. Prices in Oregon have jumped a dollar in the last year and political turmoil in the Middle East continues to drive them even higher. Further turmoil, such as a natural disaster like Hurricane Katrina or a man-made disaster like the BP gulf oil spill, would push prices higher still.
Skyrocketing gas prices are like a tax on working families. And it is the worst possible tax in the sense that it ships our energy dollars overseas, enriching the Middle East while hurting job creation here at home. We need to take concrete steps both to lower costs at the pump now and to gradually reduce the grip oil companies and petro-dictators have on our economy.
We should tap into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve during this period of uncertainty as we did during the first Gulf War. We should use the revenue raised when the government sells oil from the Reserve to fund measures to reduce oil demand. We should also crack down on Wall Street speculators who are buying up oil to drive prices higher and end massive subsidies to big oil and gas companies that just announced billions in new profits. Big oil is doing just fine -- they don't need extra help from taxpayers.
The key to keeping fuel costs down over the longer term is to steer America toward oil independence. We can reduce our need for foreign oil by promoting the use of homegrown energy, like the second-generation biofuels being developed from woody biomass here in Oregon; by increasing fuel efficiency; by making homes and businesses more energy efficient; by promoting alternative modes of transportation, like rail, mass transit, and cycling; and by investing in new technologies like electric vehicles. And to keep attention focused on the issue, we need to create a National Energy Security Council.
These steps could eliminate our dependence on non-North American oil in 20 years, not with drastic changes to our lifestyle or by assuming magic new technologies, but just by making smart choices. Kicking our addiction to foreign oil means lower fuel costs for families and businesses, cleaner air and water, and a more secure nation. By counting on American ingenuity, we will strengthen the economy and create jobs right here in America.