President telling truth: There is no quick fix for current energy crisis

Posted: Wednesday, May 09, 2001

President Bush has done something else that will help the American people distinguish him from the previous president: He has told them the truth.

When the price of gasoline began rising to uncomfortable levels, people who continue to cling to the belief that all answers lie in Washington solicited Bush for aid.

He told them: Sorry, I don't have any easy answers.

Demand for crude oil is increasing and the supply is not increasing as fast. Classic economics says that prices must go higher.

Because prices have been low for many years, this situation is upsetting to motorists.

The fact that, when adjusted for inflation, prices were higher in the 1970s is little solace to someone with a gas-guzzling SUV who must commute 50 miles a day.

People who live in places such as California and the Midwest can expect the highest prices because they have decided they want special gasoline in order to improve air quality, and that makes it more expensive.

Bush might be able to help them, at least, by temporarily waiving certain federal environmental regulations. But, if he did so, the environmental lobby that is circling over his presidency like vultures would descend upon him and denounce him as a lunatic who is killing babies.

He could also urge Congress to cut federal gasoline taxes, which are a large component of the pump price. One can only imagine the outrage from liberals in Congress over cutting more taxes, after they fought like tigers against a modest income tax cut.

Bush has another choice. He could act like a California politician and impose price controls -- probably the single worst choice he could make.

As the White House press secretary said, "Price controls will make the prices go higher and make people wait in lines."

Bush is seeking long-term solutions, such as augmenting the oil supply with another 1.5 million gallons a day from Alaska. But for the short term, one remedy is fairly obvious: If you don't like the price of the product, don't buy.

Other alternatives include riding a bus, car pooling, buying a more economical car or putting off a long vacation trip.

Higher prices will encourage more oil production, which will increase supply and prices will come down. If demand drops simultaneously, lower prices should occur even faster.

-- The Florida Times-Union

Jacksonville, Fla.

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