Amid record-high gasoline prices, America's energy future has emerged
as a major issue in this year's U.S. elections. VOA's Michael Bowman
reports from Washington, Democrats and Republicans are offering
markedly different plans to address the issue.
people in many countries, Americans love their cars and the freedom to
travel wherever and whenever they please. But a surge in gasoline
prices is squeezing family budgets and forcing many people to alter
their driving habits.
With anger rising across the country, U.S.
politicians are responding with a flurry of proposals. Texas
Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison's plan focuses on increasing
U.S. oil production by authorizing drilling in, among other places, an
ecologically-sensitive region in Alaska.
Speaking on the Fox
News Sunday television program, she argued that, at a time when global
oil output barely matches demand, it makes no sense to forgo
opportunities to boost crude supplies.
we do not increase the production in this country, we are not going to
bring the price of oil down. We are not going to bring the price of
gasoline at the pump down, and we are not going to become independent
[from foreign sources of oil]," said Hutchison.
Bush has also urged expanded drilling in Alaska, but leaders in the
Democratically-controlled Congress say it would take years before the
initiative actually yielded oil, and the added production would only
marginally boost domestic supplies.
Democrats say the long-term key to addressing America's energy needs is
not to scour the earth in search of finite reserves of fossil fuels,
but to stress conservation while redirecting consumption towards
alternative energy sources.
North Dakota Senator Byron Dorgan also appeared on Fox News Sunday.
have got to address renewable [energy sources] in a very significant
way. Yes, we should produce more, we should drill more, but you cannot
drill your way out of this," said Dorgan. "We have to have a different energy mix
because 60 percent of our oil now comes from of our shore. This is all
Gasoline prices have
continued to rise, despite a leveling off of U.S. consumption as
Americans drive less and rely more on public transportation.
fact has led some to argue the real culprit behind the current spike in
oil prices is speculation by energy investors. Some lawmakers in
Washington are calling for stricter regulations on energy trading
markets as well as new taxes on oil companies that are enjoying record
is nothing at this point that justifies the price of oil or gas in this
country with respect to supply and demand. Every month since January
our domestic crude supply has gone up. Demand is going down because
the economy is slowing, and yet the price of oil is going through the
roof. Why? Because there is an orgy of speculation going on in the
futures markets," added Byron Dorgan.
But oil companies say new taxes on energy providers would be counterproductive and unwarranted.
you look at the first quarter of this year, the profit the industry
made was 7.4 percent. The Dow Jones Industrial Average
made 8.5 percent. The problem we have now globally is
that supply and demand are very close," said Red Caveney, who heads the American Petroleum Institute. "That creates the platform for
people to enter into these commodity markets."
says boosting oil production would reduce the expectation of continued
tight oil supplies and discourage market speculation.
presumed presidential nominees of both major U.S. political parties
oppose expanded Alaska oil drilling and say the United States must
change its energy consumption habits.
In addition, Republican
John McCain is proposing a temporary lifting of federal gasoline taxes
to ease the strain on Americans' wallets.
Obama says the savings would be minimal and would rob the government of
funds needed for road construction and other infrastructure projects.
Instead, Obama has proposed a $1,000 tax cut for middle-income