Minnesotans need solutions to high gas prices
When Norm Coleman took office, a gallon of gas in Minnesota cost around $1.40. Today, Minnesota drivers are paying a staggering four dollars a gallon – with no relief in sight.
Hardly a day goes by when I don't hear about another Minnesotan affected by the skyrocketing cost of gas. There's the family that won't be going up to the cabin this summer...the construction company laying off workers and retiring trucks...the mother of five whose grocery bills are rising every week...we even lost an intern at our campaign office because his mother couldn't afford to let him take the car every day.
Unfortunately, there's no magic wand that can bring the price of gas back to where it was in 2007, let alone 2003. But we know how we got here: we spent six years giving away huge subsidies to Big Oil while they made record profits – and we failed to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. And by finally taking action to break that dependence and put ourselves on track to create green jobs, we can turn our economy around and solve our energy crisis.
Here's where I stand:
- We need to end our dependence on foreign oil. By investing in renewable energy and energy efficiency, we can make the imported-oil economy a thing of the past and replace it with a renewable-energy economy that benefits Minnesota most of all. I'll work to extend the R&D tax credit, help farmers and businesses take advantage of green technology, make our auto industry the world leader in developing hybrid electric cars, and create "green" jobs right here in Minnesota.
- The oil companies shouldn't get rich while we pay more at the pump. It's time to end the billions of dollars in tax subsidies for the big oil companies. And seeing as those subsidies are helping ExxonMobil to make profits unheard of by any company – in any industry – ever, we should institute a windfall profit tax and use the proceeds to fund energy solutions for Minnesota families.
- It's time to stop the speculators. A few years ago, after the West Coast blackouts, we found out after the fact that Enron and other utility companies had manipulated the market – raking in huge profits and costing consumers big-time. Amazingly, some energy futures can still be traded outside the purview of regulators. It's well past time we close that loophole. And we should have the Department of Justice investigate the oil markets to find out if market manipulation has contributed to the rise in prices.
- We can't afford to raise the federal gas tax. Last year, in the wake of the 35W bridge collapse, I said that I wouldn't take a small increase in the federal gas tax off the table if it would help to pay for needed infrastructure improvements. But that was when gas cost around $2.70 a gallon. Since then, it's increased by nearly 50%, and Minnesotans are feeling the squeeze. So we need to take that option off the table and find another way to fund our infrastructure: I'll vote against any increase in the federal gas tax.
- Let's not fall for gimmicks and false promises. A "gas tax holiday" would take billions of dollars out of our already-under-funded national highway trust fund and hand that money directly to the oil companies – and it wouldn't reduce the price at the pump. And although I'm not categorically opposed to off-shore drilling if it's environmentally sustainable, Senator Coleman's proposal wouldn't increase production at all in the next decade – and thus wouldn't be any help to consumers at the pump. And the oil companies it would benefit already have plenty of drillable areas that they're not using. We need real solutions, not thinly-veiled giveaways to Big Oil.