BLAME ETHANOL: Last week, as members of Congress returned home for spring recess, Big Oil took the opportunity to pass along some misinformation about why it is not responsible for the high gas prices. In a letter circulated to every member of Congress, the American Petroleum Institute (the oil industry's main lobbying group) blamed current prices on ethanol. The gist of its argument: last year's energy bill ended an "oxygenate requirement" (oxygenates are fuel additives "that contain oxygen which can boost gasoline's octane quality, enhance combustion, and reduce exhaust emissions"). The oil industry had previously relied on a noxious chemical called MTBE to oxygenate its fuel. According to the letter, the end of the oxygenate requirement was "leading to the phase-out of MTBE" and the phase-in of ethanol. "While refiners are working day and night to meet this requirement," Big Oil told Congress, "they face complicated challenges in switching to ethanol, which has numerous logistical difficulties in its transport," and which is "currently more expensive than gasoline." The Wall Street Journal in turn protested the "Ethanol Tax," stating that today's higher prices are "the result of the ethanol love-fest that Congress engaged in last summer as part of its energy bill." NBC's Nightly News also featured a segment repeating the oil industry's line, backed up by analysis from the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think-tank funded extensively by the oil and gas industry, and where Vice President Dick Cheney once served as a fellow.
Brazil has reached energy independence by using biofuels in combination with traditional fossil fuels. It's important to know that they started planning and acting twenty years ago. Seems to me if Brazil can have advanced long term plans that work, so should we. However if we keep letting people like Lee Raymond write our energy policy, we will never get a handle on our problems.
What really pisses me off about this is how even a small increase in gas prices affects families. My wife and I have three small boys. We drive a minivan and a mid sized sedan. Both are good with gas; one reason we choose them. However, one can't avoid driving, and with gas at three dollars a gallon, it all adds up. Spending more on gas means less of other things we want, and need. Things such as retirement/savings, school clothes, travel to visit relatives. The price of gas affects the price of milk and other items we need. Unlike many families that have two working parents, we choose to have one of us stay home and parent our kids. This means a lot of tight budgets, and skimping on some things that families with two working parents take for granted. The price one pays for not having someone else raise your kids. So gas is maybe 25 cents per gallon more.. who cares right? I do.
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