Wanna Save on Gas?

Washington Matters

Wanna Save on Gas?

My boss drove to 


Americans don't like to be told how to behave -- especially when it comes to their cars (and their guns). More of us are buying smaller cars, looking at hybrids, driving less and even speeding less. But we're doing it on our own -- we don't want the government telling us we MUST do it.

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No wonder then that our politicians aren't about to go there, either, even when they know that it has to be mandatory to get enough people on board to make a permanent difference. But with gasoline up 29% in the last year, elected officials pretend rather than admit that they're doing nothing. And they rail against the oil companies, foreign producers, speculators and anyone else they can find to blame -- other than voters.


There's talk of suspending the gas tax, for example, a silly idea put forth by John McCain that would do more harm than good. It would make a lot more sense to raise taxes if we want to discourage demand and eventually bring the price down, an idea embraced by pundits as diverse as Charles Krauthammer and Tom Friedman, but not by politicians.


President Bush went even further astray this morning to argue that drilling for oil in Alaska would help Americans get through the current crisis, conveniently forgetting that it will take 10 years for the first drop of oil to flow. 


Barack Obama talks mostly about investing huge sums in alternative fuels, another idea that will take a decade to bring results. We are investing some now and taking other modest steps -- such as requiring better fuel efficiency in new cars, but lawmakers are afraid to move too quickly, lest it rile up the same voters who complain about high gas prices.


And it's our fault they're so timid. Some of us don't want mandatory steps because we can afford high gas prices. And many of us think this is temporary (wrong!) and want to be free to go back to our old ways as soon as it's over.


But this is a crisis that requires common sacrifice -- both to lower prices and to wean us off of foreign oil. That's the only thing that will work. And we need politicians who will have the guts to make that case -- and insist we listen.