I find it hard to believe that U.S. Energy Secretary Sam Bodman startled a group of energy-company officials and industry representatives when he announced that high energy prices, especially for gasoline and other transportation fuels, are straining family budgets and the profits of many businesses. Furthermore, I can't imagine that audience being glued to their seats when he went on to say that Congress should pass comprehensive energy legislation aimed at boosting domestic oil, gasoline, natural gas, and other energy supplies.
According to Bodman, the problem has been years in the making and it will take years to solve. Well, I'm not buying that, and I hope neither do you. Ask yourself, how motivated is the government to lower fuel prices when taxes are collected based on the cost/gallon? By today's standards, removing federal, state, and local taxes from the price of gasoline would lower the average cost for a gallon of regular gas from $2.30 to approximately $1.50.
In addition, American taxpayers provide the subsidies that allow Iraqis to purchase gasoline for $0.05/gallon, while we're paying record prices for fuel. Something is wrong when the U.S. government pays about $1.50/gallon for fuel from neighboring countries and delivers it to Iraqi stations because that country lacks refining capacity. Estimates suggest that a 3-month gas supply for Iraq (a major petroleum producer) costs American taxpayers more than $500 million, not including the cost of military escorts.
Undoubtedly, our fuel costs are not as high as those in other parts of the world, especially Europe and the Far East. And we need to come to grips with the realization that countries like China and India are now seeking larger portions of the world's crude-oil supply. However, we must also realize that our future is in our hands and it is paramount to protect our own interests and strengthen our industrial base. It's time to ask some hard questions and expect answers that involve accountability. While I agree that a certain amount of gasoline taxes are required to build highways and maintain roads, our elected officials need to understand that the windfall taxes currently collected based on the cost of a gallon of gas should be rescinded to provide additional expendable income to the consumer, while at the same time provide relief to manufacturers who have no recourse but to raise prices to cover transportation costs.
We can always hope for a reduction in gas prices, but that's not much of a strategy. A better strategy is making our elected representatives aware of the fact that we expect a gas-tax reduction, which shouldn't take years to do according to Secretary Bodman.