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Weaning off foreign oil

High gas prices are a victory for wealthy foreign oil potentates and domestic environmental extremists and a loss for the American people. Up to now, the federal government has remained a spectator.

The increased cost of filling up your gas tank is only the most visible impact of higher gas prices. Essentially, everything we buy needs to be transported by plane, train, truck or car – all of which consume fuel derived from petroleum. These increased transportation costs are ultimately passed on to consumers.

This is the situation many environmentalists, including Vice President Al Gore, have long hoped for. In fact, they would like to see gasoline prices soar even higher, to a point out of reach for many Americans. It is part of their agenda to dramatically increase the cost of owning and operating a car. They want to push you onto public transportation and away from low-density civilization.



In his celebrated manifesto, “Earth in The Balance,” Al Gore held that “Higher taxes on fossil fuels … is one of the logical first steps in changing our policies in a manner consistent with a more responsible approach to the environment.” Sure enough, the Clinton-Gore Administration levied a 4.3-cent-per-gallon surtax on gasoline their first year in office. Unlike the existing federal gas tax that paid for highways and other surface transportation improvements, this surtax went directly into the general fund to be spent on more welfare, bureaucrat salaries, and assorted big government programs.

When Republicans gained control of Congress in 1995, we voted to repeal the 4.3-cent Gore surtax. Of course, the Clinton-Gore team vetoed that legislation.




While repealing the 4.3-cent surtax would offer some relief to consumers at the pumps, it would do nothing to address the root cause of the price rise: Our overdependence on foreign oil. The current price rise began with a decision by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to collectively decrease petroleum production. The ensuing shortage put upward pressure on the price of crude oil, bringing us to where we are today.

The U.S. government has tolerated the existence of this OPEC oil cartel for far too long. Less than a decade ago the Untied States went to war in the Gulf to protect several member nations of OPEC. It is humiliating to send our energy secretary begging these same countries to bail us out of this crisis. We must exercise our leverage to pressure the likes of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait not to hold the American economy captive. This week the House passed a bill threatening to cut off foreign aid and military sales to any country that participates in such international price-fixing. Further, we need to band together with other oil-consuming nations to break apart the oil cartel.

But we need not be this dependent on foreign oil in the first place. Al Gore and his environmentalist allies have purposely and irresponsibly ensured America is even more dependent on foreign oil than just a few years ago. We have plenty of oil right in the ground here in America, but this administration, which is captive to the extreme environmentalist movement, has successfully placed large reserves off-limits from drilling.

In 1995, Congress sent legislation to the president opening up Alaskan oil fields for drilling. President Clinton vetoed it. I have co-sponsored and advocate sending similar legislation to the president now. We need to tap the vast oil fields that are currently walled off in this country. Americans would be less exposed to the fluctuations in the global oil market and the increased supply will further lower prices for gasoline.

That would lower the price of filling your car with gasoline, and of everything you buy that is transported. Don’t expect the environmentalists to be pleased. It is a threat to their holy vision of your proper way of life. Think about that next time you pay outrageous prices for gasoline.

-U.S. Congressman John Doolittle, a Republican, represents District 4.


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