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It is a safe guess that few, if any, TimesLedger readers are not feeling the pain of higher prices at the gas pump. The cost of regular gas is nearing $4 a gallon and the increased costs in transportation result in higher prices at the supermarket. These are indeed difficult days, which is precisely why people should be wary of politicians offering simplistic solutions.
One such solution is the "summer gas tax holiday" supported by state Sens. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose) and Serphin Maltese (R-Glendale). The proposal, backed by the state Senate Republican majority, would eliminate state taxes on the sale of gasoline from Memorial Day to Labor Day. This would save drivers 32 cents a gallon during the summer months, when people drive the most.
It sounds good and will no doubt be appealing to the state's beleaguered car owners. It is similar to a proposal backed by presidential candidates U.S. Sens. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) to remove or lower the federal gasoline tax.
But these are foolish proposals that will do little if any good and may do real harm.
First, there is no way to make certain that petroleum producers will pass the savings along to the driver. Although drivers might see a momentary benefit at the pump, it would not be long before prices were once again nearing $4 and, in September, they would be approaching $4.32 or more.
Gasoline prices worldwide are driven by the law of supply and demand. The gas crisis will not get better until the nation finds a way to reduce demand and increase supply. In the long term, America must control its addiction to fossil fuels. The federal government should continue to encourage the development of alternative fuels and more fuel-efficient cars. This is critical both for the economy and quality of the air we breathe.
In the short term, the government should be looking for ways to encourage the development of domestic oil production. This would include taking a second look at the Artic National Wildlife Refuge and the possibility of increased offshore drilling.
Feel-good solutions, no matter how well-intentioned, should be seen for what they are. Removing the taxes on fuel at a time when the state is cutting back on services and still having trouble making ends meet is profoundly foolish.
©2008 Community Newspaper Group
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