Another week in Washington and yet another bill trying to do something to lower high prices at the gas pump. Both Tennessee Senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker support the new GOP-backed bill which, as Senator Alexander puts it, seeks to lower gas prices by simply "finding more and using less." In short, that means opening more areas (especially offshore) for oil exploration and pushing for electric cars, which Alexander claims within five years can have thousands of Tennesseans driving vehicles that get up to 100 miles per gallon.
That statement is bound to bring criticism from Senator Alexander's two Democratic opponents for re-election. Knox County Clerk Mike Padgett, who just finished visiting all 95 counties in the state (I wonder what kind of carbon footprint that made) says" "We need to end tax relief for the wealthiest Americans and for Big Oil. Let's take that money and make sure folks can afford basic needs: fuel for our cars, health care for our families and a better education for our kids. This kind of thinking isn't what Tennessean-or the rest of America, for that matter-has gotten from President Bush or Senator Alexander or Senator McCain."
Nashville lawyer Bob Tuke adds: "Senator Alexander has voted to protect big oil and energy companies over and over, and their executives and their PACS have rewarded him with more than $130,000 for his campaign coffers this cycle alone. Investing in clean and renewable energy sources such as wind power, solar power and advanced biofuels can help replace our nation's dependency on foreign oil and fossil fuels while creating a new energy future."
The problem is none of these things our politicians and candidates are talking about can happen for years, if ever, and making energy just another political football to be kicked around for partisan purposes will get even less accomplished. Senator Alexander in one of his news releases, points out the case of Christy Long of Maynardville, who he says is one of 600 Tennesseans who have written him lately about how high gas prices are hurting everyone. "She is having trouble paying for her insulin," says Senator Alexander. "She says ‘gas for work or insulin to live. That is the decision I have to make several times daily.'
I suspect she is not alone, but the increasingly partisan mood in Washington on this issue (after all, it is an election year) probably means will have to keep making difficult financial decisions for years to come, before we finally find some way to address an issue that has been decades in the making. It won't be solved by any single piece of legislation or even a series of bills passed by Congress (including going after oil speculators). If you want more proof of how partisan this issue is becoming watch the latest Tennessee GOP video that tries to us Obama's mantra of "Yes, We Can" against him on the gas issue.
I know lawmakers want to pass something before they come home for the summer to address the gas issue, but right now, I am not seeing much consensus for anything that will have immediate impact.
LATE BREAKING...As this column is being completed (June 27), there are some small signs for hope on energy issues and the Congress. Tennessee Senator Bob Corker has joined a bi-partisan group of nine other Senators in signing a letter to the upper chamber's leadership in both parties. They claim they plan to work together "to address the nation's energy crisis and they asking the leadership after the 4th of July holiday break "to convene an energy summit in order to hear from unbiased experts to assist them in moving forward in crafting legislation."
It sure sounds like a good first step. Now let's see what, if anything, develops.
NewsChannel 5 thanks Pat Nolan for providing this column every week. Mr. Nolan's commentary reflects his own opinions, not those of the NewsChannel 5 Network. Comments about Capitol View should be sent to Pat Nolan directly via email at firstname.lastname@example.org .