Sunday, July 27, 2008

GOP Is Banking on Oil Prices to Narrow Gap

Republicans are counting on the issue of gas prices to narrow the gap with Democrats in the November elections. Cars with bumper stickers saying "Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less" are showing up in Medina County. According to public opinion polls, a majority of Americans favor increasing offshore drilling.

What's interesting is that obviously allowing oil companies to drill offshore won't do a thing to bring down oil prices in the short term. Indeed, there is scant evidence that allowing such drilling would ever work because of the global market forces driving up oil prices.

What could work, though, and could be done without any environmental cost is for Americans to start using less gas by car-pooling. Go on Interstate Highway between the hours of 7 AM to 9AM and you will see thousands of cars taking Americans to work. The vast majority of those cars will only have one person in the car. Clearly, if you could boost the number of occupants in those cars to just two, you would save a lot of gasoline. Instead of incentives to make oil companies richer, we need incentives designed to save working class Americans money. We need incentives to get Americans to car-pool going and coming from work.

The GOP won't push proposals that give incentives to ordinary Americans to use less gasoline. First of all, their political allies in the oil industry won't like it. Second, such incentives, in their view, interfere with the "free market", a concept that has religious overtones for most conservatives. Third, as shown by the fact that they won't raise taxes to pay for the Iraq War, they are opposed to asking Americans to sacrifice for the common good.

Democrats need to come up with policy proposals that will do just that and they need to come up with these proposals pretty quick. If they don't, they could see the GOP cashing in on what ought to be a Democratic issue.

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