Three dollar gas

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(HOST)Gas prices are rising at an alarming rate and the Bush administration is promising to study the problem. Commentator Bill Seamans thinks that’s not enough.

(SEAMANS) As we face three-dollar-a-gallon gasoline President Bush has said that there’s a “tough summer” ahead for us at the gas pump. For his Republican Party the price of gasoline is adding up to yet another major problem heading into the November elections.

President Bush has, however, tried to explain – he said we “have got to understand that what happens elsewhere in the world affects the price of gasoline you pay here.” And he also blamed a shortage of refinery capacity here at home. He astutely observed that “when the price of gasoline goes up, it hurts working people and our small businesses” – and, he said, it’s a “serious problem we’ve got to do something about.”

However, that problem is now and since gasoline prices affect the national economy which, in turn, affects national security during a time of war then President Bush should exercise the strongest leadership now instead of talking about possible solutions that would take years to make an impact. The critical damage control time is now…

But what can be done now? Well, we’ve heard calls for the immediate launching of a massive government sponsored “Manhattan Project” to develop with the speed we produced the atomic bomb alternative fuels to relieve our dependence on, as Bush said, “what happens elsewhere in the world.” We’ve heard calls for the immediate imposition of a gasoline tax high enough to persuade motorists to buy more fuel-efficient cars. We’ve heard demands that President Bush immediately establish higher vehicle fuel efficiency standards. It’s obvious that in this age of petrolism there can be no gain without economic and political pain and so far President Bush has not endorsed these proposals.

President Bush, no doubt apprised of the groundswell of negative public reaction has ordered an investigation into whether the price of gasoline has been illegally manipulated resulting in exorbitant profits. Democrats are reacting skeptically noting that Big Oil is one of Bush’s biggest campaign contributors. Those who have been demanding action now charge that rocketing gasoline prices are not a political problem that can be lost in the fog of endless congressional investigation hearings.

Thus far, we the people have been paying fifty and sixty dollar tank refills with controlled frustration. But the big question is how long can the people’s purse hold out before the public demands that President Bush demonstrate real leadership by giving the gasoline problem the immediate substantive action it demands. An apparently politically motivated investigation of possible price gouging will not do the job. However, it will at least momentarily divert attention from the Rumsfeld and immigration controversies.

Bill Seamans is a former correspondent and bureau chief for ABC News in the Middle East.

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