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Pump price slip fosters complacency

It was like Christmas, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy all rolled into one recently when gas slipped below $3 per gallon ($2.999).

I filled up this morning for $2.929. What a bargain!

After hitting record levels nationally at the end of May, refinery problems supposedly have eased, supplies have recovered, and analysts are predicting further price declines, even though the high-demand summer driving season is just now under way.

Price forecasts, we’ve learned all too well, are nothing if not ephemeral. A flareup anywhere in the Mideast, a weather threat now that hurricane season’s under way, or any market whim can send gas prices zooming again.

Even if nothing disruptive happens, it’s not likely prices will go down nearly as much as they’ve risen over the past few months. The oil powers-that-be continue in the catbird seat by being able to manipulate supply, and thus price (and profits).

They’ve now pretty much established that they can charge what they wish — just as long as the pumps are kept full. It’s when shortages occur that the natives get restless.

So, we continue, fat, dumb, and happy, no closer to a coherent, meaningful, workable, national energy solution.

Congress blathers about alternative fuel programs, the administration postures about lessening our “addiction” to foreign oil, auto manufacturers beat their breasts about turning out thousands of flex-fuel cars (for which they get dispensation to build more gas guzzlers, and for which almost nobody can find the E-85 they can run on), and farmers are growing corn like it’s going out of style to produce heavily-taxpayer-subsidized ethanol fuels that almost nobody outside the Midwest can buy. And there’s no real consensus that ethanol constitutes a long-term solution to our energy problems.

We could be drowning in ethanol and it would matter nary a fig without a national infrastructure to get it to the consumer.

Everything in this country seems to operate in crisis mode; 30-odd years after the Arab embargo that had everyone resolving never again to be at the mercy of foreign oil, we’re much farther behind the 8-ball than we were then — more vehicles, more miles driven, and much greater dependence on imported oil.

Talk about a dearth of leadership, determination, and guts. The country that used those traits to win world wars and put a man on the moon, hasn’t, after more than three decades, managed to come up with something better? What a shame.

Over the past couple of weeks, Congress has, yet again, been debating an increase in the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standard, which has been unchanged for more than 20 years, chiefly due to auto industry opposition.

The current 25 mpg requirement would rise to 35 mpg average for new cars and trucks by 2020. Although the auto industry is now tacitly supporting legislation to increase the CAFE, the president, ever loyal to his Big Oil cronies, says he’ll veto it. Many auto engineers say technology already exists to get much higher mileage without sacrificing performance or safety, but that the industry hasn’t adopted it because of costs.

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