As part of an attempt to ease the run-up of gas prices across the United States in recent months, the Bush administration is allowing certain regions to waive environmental rules mandating switching over from one fuel additive, the widely available MTBE, to the less polluting and more costly ethanol. The White House hopes the move will avert the regional fuel shortages already starting to crop up this spring.
In a related move, President Bush called for halting the addition of oil to the nation"s Strategic Petroleum Reserve while demand for gasoline is high during the upcoming summer months. “We’ll leave a little more oil on the market,” Bush said Tuesday. “Every little bit helps.”
Meanwhile, many Congressional Democrats expressed concern that such moves are too little too late, and are advocating more drastic measures to keep gas prices below $3 gallon this summer. One such proposal calls on the federal government to suspend taxes on gas and diesel fuel for 60 days in order to keep costs down for consumers during the summer driving season, with federal losses to be offset by the repeal of tax breaks for the oil industry, which has posted record profits in recent years.
“The prices at the pump reflect the oil companies’ addiction to greed,” Senator Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, told his colleagues on the Senate floor last week. “It is time we have a windfall-profits tax.”
Another idea floating around Congress is a 50% excise tax on barrels of oil selling for more than $50 apiece as an incentive for oil companies to keep costs down. But despite some Republican support for such ideas, analysts maintain that a White House still talking about opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling is unlikely to take anything other than the ineffectual quick fixes it has proposed too seriously.