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THURSDAY, AUGUST 18, 2005
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EDITORIAL

Congress must lead country out of oil crisis

"I don't fill up anymore. I just put $20 worth in," was one local response to how people are coping with gasoline prices that are now above $2.50 per gallon.

That, of course, isn't coping, because as soon as that less than a half tank of fuel runs out, the person will stop and get another $20 worth. And as prices continue to go up, he will stop more often, until he decides to park his vehicle for any trip that isn't vital.

The nation is not to that point yet, but at some time in the future motorists are going to insist that government do something because the jacked-up prices affect middle America. Wal-Mart said this week that its sales are down because more disposable income is going to buy gasoline.

And that awful demon inflation is up, too, because of gasoline prices and their effect throughout the economy.

But what is government to do? Does it ration supply to force down consumption? Does it mandate carpooling? Does it drill in the Alaskan wildlife preserve? Does it investigate Big Oil?

Petroleum isn't the long-range answer to America's problem. The solution lies elsewhere, but Washington's oil mentality continues to drive our planning.

Congress approved a $12.3 billion energy bill last month before adjourning. It was the first energy legislation in more than a decade, but it passed only because it has political pork funds for any industry that has a remote kinship to energy.

Congress needs to show leadership. Somebody's got to stand up and demand that American money stop flowing to Arab nations that use it to finance terrorist camps.

Somebody's got to call for something like the Manhattan Project that produced the atomic bomb, only this one must produce energy for peaceful purposes.

The Arabs and Russians have the oil. We don't, so we must compensate. The Chinese are going to consume more as China's economy expands. That means the United States will get less or pay even higher prices.

Most leaders say they don't have the answers to the problem that threatens the American standard of living. That's why Congress must take the lead with a crash program, demanding that the United States finds answers.

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