Friday, May 2, 2008

Reckless pandering on gas

America's two top elected government officials and two presidential hopefuls are showing an indecent lack of leadership qualities in their naked political pandering on consumer fuel costs.

President Bush and Vice President Cheney are confronting rising gasoline prices head-on by pandering to oil industry cronies with their broken-record proposal to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling, which in any event would be years away if Congress is foolhardy enough to approve it. Pumping more fuel for gluttonous American drivers would only lead to depleting petroleum reserves, discouraging conservation and ultimately demanding more imports from foreign producers who'd build yet more posh cities with U.S. dollars.

And the look-alike proposals by Democrat Sen. Hillary Clinton and Republican Sen. John McCain to suspend the 18.4-cent federal fuel tax for summer driving is just as foolish and lacking in sound thought. A chorus of economists has condemned it. Harvard professor Gregory Mankiw explains that "if producers can't produce much more, when you cut the tax on that good the tax is kept . . . by the suppliers and not passed on to consumers."

Only Democrat Barack Obama has shown good sense and political courage in resisting the callous grandstanding on a problem that requires a serious, thoughtful energy policy and not election-year gimmicks.

Instead of showing vision and leadership on this most critical problem, the Bush-Cheney team has squandered its years in office avoiding tougher automotive fuel-efficiency standards and meaningful conservation efforts that would shrink dependence on overseas oil and make U.S. drivers more prudent in their fuel-consumption habits.

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