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\(:stitlmt: Nee. 034..6.1 ‘Ott 1’ ‘ii EDITORIAL Pandering at the Pump Gas prices are so high the rural unemployed cannot afford to leave their houses to look for work. Filling a 20gallon tank now costs more than $80. Working families are feeling the pinchsome choose between money for gas and basic needs like food, medicine, and rent. \(Elevated fuel costs have contributed to skyrocketing be taking to the highways for summer vacation as they have in the past. The Department of Transportation reports that Americans drove 1.4 billion fewer highway miles in April 2008 than they did in April 2007. Fuel prices likely will be a dominant election issue this fall. By the end of the year, some analysts say gas could hit $6 a gallon. The spike in oil prices stems from a number of complicated factors. But the bottom line is that global demand for oil has outstripped supply. With the price of oil ever risingat press time, a barrel of crude went for a cool $132the temptation to drill for more domestic oil is awfully seductive. A man in Selma, Indiana, even dug an oil well in his backyard recently and has been pumping up three barrels a day. Oil companies are thinking the same way. For years, oil companies have wanted to tap Alaska’s fragile Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, pockets of oil in mountain states, and offshore oil reserves along the coasts. The industry, which has hauled in record profits of late, promises that more production will bring down prices. Republican leaders, sensing a winning political issue in an election year, wasted no time putting the need for more oil production center stage. President Bush called on Congress to lift the 27-year federal ban on offshore drilling, and, in an impressive display of gall even for him, blamed high gas prices on congressional Democrats’ opposition to environmentally risky drilling projects. Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, a Republican, recently flip-flopped and endorsed offshore exploration. Texas Gov. Rick Perry wants more drilling, too, as does GOP presidential nominee John McCain. U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, in her speech at the recent Republican state convention in Houston, claimed that ANWR contains enough oil to replace the United States’ annual imports from Saudi Arabia. She could be right: Under the most optimistic projections, ANWR could pump 1.4 million barrels a dayenough to replace what we bring in from the Kingdomfor perhaps two years. Hutchison neglected to mention that ANWR production couldn’t attain that level until 2028. Newt Gingrich told the convention crowd that the solution to high gas prices is, “Drill here, drill now, pay less:’ If only life were as simple as a political slogan. Drilling in ANWR and along the U.S. coastline would certainly provide more profit for oil companies. But these projectswhile risking significant environmental pollutionwouldn’t lower gas prices in the here and now The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that oil from ANWR wouldn’t reach the U.S. market until 2018, and offshore drilling likely wouldn’t produce oil until 2030. We must face a difficult truth. With global oil reserves on the decline, the age of cheap gas is over. While government can provide some short-term fixes a redistribution tax on oil companies for subsidies to working families, for examplenothing will permanently reduce gas prices. Our only option is to invest heavily in alternative sources of energywind power, solar energy, clean coal, and even nuclear. In other words, what we need is political leadership to formulate a realistic energy policy. Instead, Republican leaders once again give us only pandering. The real question is whether Americans will once again allow themselves to be conned by cheap slogans. THE TEXAS OBSERVER I VOLUME 100, NO. 13 I A Journal of Free Voices Since 1954 Founding Editor Ronnie Dugger CEO/Executive Publisher Carlton Carl Executive Editor Jake Bernstein Managing Editor Brad Tyer Associate Editor Dave Mann Publisher Charlotte McCann Associate Publisher Julia Austin Circulation Manager Sandra Beckmeier Art Director Leah Ball Webmaster Shane Pearson Investigative Reporter Melissa del Bosque Poetry Editor Naomi Shihab Nye Copy Editor Rusty Todd Staff Writer Forrest Wilder Editorial Interns Elisabeth Kristof, Mary Tuma Contributing Writers Nate Blakeslee, Robert Bryce, Emily DePrang, Michael Erard, James K. Galbraith, Steven G. Kellman, James McWilliams, Char Miller, Debbie Nathan, Karen Olsson, John Ross, Andrew Wheat Staff Photographers Alan Pogue, Jana Birchum, Steve Satterwhite Contributing Artists Sam Hurt, Kevin Kreneck, Michael Krone, Gary Oliver, Doug Potter Editorial Advisory Board David Anderson, Chandler Davidson, Dave Denison, Sissy Farenthold, Lawrence Goodwyn, Jim Hightower, Kaye Northcott, Susan Reid, Rusty Todd Texas Democracy Foundation Board Mary Margaret Farabee, Melissa Jones, Jim Marston, Mary Nell Mathis, Gilberto Ocafias, Jesse Oliver, Bernard Rapoport, Geoffrey Rips, Geronimo Rodriguez, Sharron Rush, Kelly White, In Memoriam Molly lvins, 1944-2007 Bob Eckhardt, 1913-2001 Cliff Olafson, 1931-1995 The Texas Observer \(ISSN 0040-4519/ righted 2008, is published biweekly except during January and August when there is a 4 week break by the Texas Democracy Foundation, West 7th Street, Austin, Texas 78701. E-mail [email protected] World Wide Web DownHome page . Periodicals Postage paid at Austin, TX and at additional mailing offices. Subscriptions One year $32, two years $59, three years $84. Full-time students $18 per year; add $13 per year for foreign subs. Back issues $3 prepaid. Airmail, foreign, group, and bulk rates on request. Microfilm available from University Microfilms Intl., 300 N. Zeeb Road, Ann Arbor, MI 48106. Indexes The Texas Observer is indexed in Access: The Supplementary Index to Periodicals; Texas Index and, for the years 1954 through 1981, The Texas Observer Index. POSTMASTER Send address changes to: The Texas Observer, 307 West 7th Street, Austin, Texas 78701. Books & the Culture is funded in part by the City of Austin through the Cultural Arts Division and by a grant from the Texas Commission on the Arts. JUNE 27, 2008 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 3