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The GAS Act: Protection Today, Lower Costs Tomorrow

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The GAS Act: Protection Today, Lower Costs Tomorrow

By Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA)

According to the most recent statistics, the average price of gasoline in Pennsylvania is $2.79 per gallon. Nationwide, the price is even higher, at $2.89 per gallon. These prices affect all Americans, increasing the cost of going about our day-to-day lives. With winter just a few short months away, Pennsylvanians are looking at the rising price of heating oil with justifiable apprehension. President Bush recently called on Americans across the nation to do our best to conserve energy resources, and I certainly echo that sentiment.

Making Americans aware of the role that we can all play in reducing both the price of our energy and the burden that comes when prices are this high is certainly important. But as a member of the United States Senate, it is my responsibility to confront the problems facing the people of Pennsylvania head-on. In an effort to protect consumers in the short-term and diversify our energy sources in the long-term, I recently introduced the Gasoline Affordability and Security (GAS) Act.

There are few practices more despicable than individuals and businesses trying to prosper from the misfortune of others. Following Hurricane Katrina, which damaged our oil supply so severely that 20 percent of our nation's refinery capacity is still offline today, some unscrupulous, predatory gasoline retailers immediately hiked their prices. This is known as price gouging, and it is extremely damaging to our economy and our citizens. Americans must be protected from this destructive and immoral practice.

As it currently stands, 28 states have anti-gas price gouging laws--Pennsylvania does not.
The GAS Act will establish the first federal, nationwide law against price gouging, providing the residents of our state with the protection they need and deserve. Additionally, this law creates a Federal Trade Commission task force charged with assisting state attorneys general in investigating price gouging and developing state price gouging laws. We cannot allow honest Americans to be cheated out of their hard-earned money by disingenuous, predatory businesses. The GAS Act provides states with the tools to ensure that they aren't.

While it is important that we protect our consumers from unnecessarily high gas prices, that protection will not change the fact that prices are still almost 80 percent higher than they were just two years ago. Reducing gasoline prices will require an array of policy solutions, many of which will provide relief in the long-term.

The GAS Act has a number of such provisions, including a focus on diversifying our nation's energy supply. America is often known as 'the Saudi Arabia of coal,' in reference to our abundant supply of this natural resource. Pennsylvania alone has coal reserves that will last us over 250 years, and finding new and cleaner ways to use coal is critical for our economy and our environment. The GAS Act will advance promising, environmentally friendly coal-to-liquid fuel technologies, helping to reduce America's dangerous and costly dependence on foreign sources of energy.

Earlier this Congress, I introduced the Telework Tax Incentive Act, a bill that would provide tax relief for individuals who choose to work from home and for those businesses that employ them. The GAS Act contains an expanded version of this legislation, which will encourage more Americans to telework. A report from the year 2000 indicated that if 10 to 20 percent of commuters switched to telework, it would save our nation 3.5 billion gallons of gasoline. Hopefully, provisions in this legislation will move us closer to that number.

Reducing gas prices is a complicated problem that, unfortunately, has no simple solution. But it is a problem that needs our attention, and needs it now. The comprehensive energy bill Congress passed over the summer will help reduce our nation's dependence on foreign oil, the biggest reason for the current price situation. The GAS Act builds on some of the provisions in the energy bill, further increasing our commitment to clean, safe alternative fuel sources. And it protects consumers, ensuring that gas prices aren't falsely raised higher than they already are. These are real, viable solutions to a problem that we are all feeling the effects of. The people of Pennsylvania sent me to Washington to solve these types of problems, not to stand by the wayside and watch as they struggle. It is time that members of Congress step up and act as leaders in this debate, and this legislation provides a perfect opportunity for them to do so.

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