Opinion

As gas prices soar, we need action now on energy

Darcy Burner
Island Forum

Seven years ago, when President Bush took office, gasoline was $1.50 per gallon. Now, it is more than $4 per gallon — and prices are expected to keep rising through the summer. American middle-class families are spending well over $1,000 more per year now on gas than they were five years ago. Given that the average American household’s income has declined $1,000 a year during the Bush years, families across the 8th Congressional District are feeling the squeeze. Where is that money going to come from?

This growing problem with energy prices could have been avoided if we had focused on energy independence and innovation rather than having politicians who genuflected to Big Oil.

The facts speak for themselves. In 2000, when President Bush took office, the profits of the five major American oil companies totaled $37 billion. By 2007, one of those companies alone, Exxon-Mobil, posted $42 billion in profits — the largest profit of any corporation in American history — and the total net earnings for the major oil companies exceeded $123 billion. Those profits are made on the backs of middle-class families and subsidized by the more than $20 billion in corporate welfare showered on them by the Republican-led Congress prior to 2006 — money that is also coming out of the pockets of taxpayers.

As your representative in Congress, I will champion a more a sensible and balanced approach to energy to increase environmentally friendly renewable energy sources and counteract the impact of rising oil prices. Investment in new, clean energy technologies will create thousands of new American jobs and industries — including here in the 8th District — while making our country stronger and our economy more secure.

Let’s innovate our way out of this problem, as we Americans have always done when faced with big challenges. Let us free ourselves from dependence of oil so that we never again are at the mercy of unstable or hostile oil-producing regimes in the Middle East and elsewhere around the globe. Let us end the war we are in responsibly — as I have laid out a plan to do — and help stabilize the Middle East by lowering the stakes so that oil isn’t worth fighting over.

And in the short-term, let’s make sure oil companies aren’t price-gouging middle-class families. I strongly support the creation of market manipulation rule requirements, requiring the Federal Trade Commission to write rules and regulations covering gasoline price manipulation and gouging under the 2007 energy bill. Unfortunately, under the current administration, the FTC has failed to establish such rules. Congress must act by legislating a deadline to create these rules and then provide the oversight necessary to ensure they are fully enforced.

The only way we will solve this growing problem with energy prices is if we make a real commitment to reining in oil companies in the short-term and reducing demand for gasoline in the longer term. We need change in Washington, D.C., to put the interests of the American middle-class ahead of the demands of special interests. We can change this country if we elect representatives who will change the way we do business in Washington, D.C., which is why I am eager to represent you after this November’s election.

Darcy Burner is the Democratic candidate for Congress in the 8th Congressional District.

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