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Use oil subsidies to create clean energy

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Washington, DC, April 17, 2012 | comments

Plain and simple: Americans are better than the gasoline we put into our vehicles.

Every day, I hear from people in our region that "gasoline prices are going up." "Can't you do something about this?" or "Can't we just drill more?" they ask.

The facts that drive this oil debate can often be overlooked and warrant further examination.

Domestic oil production last year rose to its highest level since 2003. More oil is now produced per year under President Barack Obama than during any year of President George W. Bush's second term.

Even if we tapped every single source in the United States, we would continue to be too heavily dependent on imported oil. We simply cannot drill our way out of this problem.

Yet, many ignore this basic fact as oil and gas prices continue to rise. They continue to say that more drilling will solve our nation's energy problems.

American consumers and businesses are facing sticker shock at the pump. The average price of gasoline in the Capital Region, for example, has risen to more than $3.70 a gallon.

The reason for this increase in price is simple -- simple supply and demand economics. In China, 12 million to 14 million new cars are put on the road every year. At the same time, supply disruptions in the Middle East and North Africa arise from political unrest.

We cannot deny that we are beholden to these forces, which have recently caused the price of oil to top $106 a barrel. Unfortunately, too many American consumers are now stuck holding the bill.

Some have called for tapping the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to increase supply and bring down costs. Others have suggested waiting until costs rise further before tapping it.

Every time the price of gasoline spikes, we discuss short-term solutions to our long-term problem:

What about the massive tax breaks that Big Oil companies like BP and Exxon receive?

What about our overall dependence on foreign oil?

Is there a viable, cost-competitive alternative?

If you draw down the Strategic Petroleum Reserve now, what if prices go up later? How long will we wait to refill the reserve, and at what price?

During a time of budget austerity and a growing national debt, Republicans in Congress want to continue giving tax subsidies to Big Oil companies that are realizing record profits -- $75 billion last year alone. Those companies have literally said "they don't need the tax breaks."

In the same breath, these same Republicans suggest we must cut spending on energy efficiency, clean energy, advanced vehicle technologies and loan guarantees. This is misguided at best and hypocrisy at worst.

High gasoline prices are a serious concern, not only because of the pain it causes consumers at the pump, but also the impact they have on our farmers, truckers, travelers and the nation's employers. The more money we spend on gasoline the less we have for food, clothing, shelter, a new vehicle, college, dining out, growing a small business and more.

Tax breaks for oil companies were introduced in 1913, almost 100 years ago. And yet they continue today.

There must be a better solution than continuing to swim in oil. Does that sound too farfetched? The rotary phone and typewriter were widely in use only a few short years ago, but they have been relegated to antique shops with the invention of iPhones and laptops.

Let's resolve to use oil subsidies for a better purpose: Give the money to our brightest minds to invent and grow clean energy technology. Perhaps then we can shelve the leftover barrels of oil alongside the rotary phone and typewriter.

Read more: http://www.timesunion.com/opinion/article/Use-oil-subsidies-to-create-clean-energy-1100611.php#ixzz1sKCEdHVx

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