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As public anger over soaring gas prices continues to build, members of Congress have noticed that their re-elect numbers continue to go down. And so they are scrambling to find someone or something to blame. Big oil companies are the favorite scapegoat, but the President, China, automakers, the Iraq War, and speculators are also popular targets.Most senators and representatives should be looking in the mirror in order to find who is really to blame. Those who are complaining the loudest have voted again and again over many years for policies designed to constrict energy supplies and thereby raise energy prices. To take just one example, Sen. Byron Dorgan (D.-N.D.) recently said oil companies should be required to invest their record profits in new energy production in the United States. Yet Dorgan opposes opening federal lands and offshore areas to new oil production and supports ever higher government mandates and subsidies for ethanol, which will raise rather than lower gas prices (but will also benefit his state’s corn industry).President Bush, noticing that his own poll numbers decline as gas prices rise, jumped into the blame game on April 25 when he ordered federal investigations into oil price manipulation and directed the attorney general to urge the 50 state attorneys general to conduct separate investigations.While demagoguery and grandstanding is all that can be expected from the likes of Senators Chuck Schumer (D.-N.Y.) and Arlen Specter (R.-Pa.), Bush knows better. Until he told us in his State of the Union speech in January that we are addicted to oil, his proposed energy policies recognized that if we are going to continue to use a lot of energy we need to produce more of it in the United States. The President needs to get back on the right track because the current situation presents a rare opportunity. Real leadership now could channel public anger into achieving important long-term solutions to America’s energy needs that have been stymied for decades by environmental pressure groups. Here is what I think the President should do.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
It is true that these are long-term policies that will not drop prices this summer. But grandstanding to score short-term political points isn’t going to lower prices at the pump either—now or in the future.