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Time to give up the gas

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There are hundreds, if not thousands, of subjects we could tackle in this space this week – the country is at war on several fronts, there is a local election heating up as 2008 presidential campaigns kick into gear, a sex scandal is boiling in our nation’s capital and legislation on immigration is looming.

But we’re going to address an old favorite here this week, a situation we’ve tackled before but which is worsening by the hour, it seems.

We’re talking about the price of gas, which rocketed past $3 a gallon in the Greensboro area over the past two weeks and shows no signs of abating… ever.

We bring it up because we think most Americans are starting to feel the effects of the price hike – when gas hits $4 a gallon in Greensboro it will be a 200 percent increase in less than five years, triple the going rate of $1.32 in September 2002.

We have other concerns, chief among them that prices in other sectors have not yet reflected this astronomical rise in the cost of filling our tanks. When that happens, and we believe it will, it will have the effect of a Hoover vacuum cleaner on the wallets of those whose monthly gasoline bill has approached, even exceeded, their car payments.

In Wisconsin, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, some service station owners are ceasing the sale of gasoline, saying the 10 cents or so they make per gallon isn’t worth the effort.

Major gas companies, meanwhile, continue to shatter profit records while maintaining that they have little or no control over the price of their product. And the nation’s refineries – the ones that are actually open for business and not closed for “seasonal maintenance” or recovering from massive fires like the one suffered by Valero Energy’s McKee plant in north Texas in February – are also making a proverbial killing this spring, running at about 88 percent, which beefs up their own bottom line while they actually make less product.

Somebody should do something about this, right?The US House of Representatives is on it, passing the Federal Price Gouging Prevention Act last week. But the proposed bill will take hold only in an “energy emergency” which must first be declared by the president and should last no more than 30 days. It does nothing to fight the artificial inflation systemic to the industry.

Even still, the White House is threatening veto the bill on capitalistic principle.

Which is fine by us. We don’t trust our government – particularly a White House administration steeped in big-oil interests – to do right by us in this regard anyway.

So it falls on us and every other US citizen to do the right thing: buy less gasoline. Because capitalistic principle works both ways.

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