Gas prices are going to be a hot topic in the 2008 elections in West Virginia and around the nation. The average gas price in West Virginia is $3.776 a gallon for regular unleaded. The price has increased over $.70 a gallon from a year ago, over $.38 a gallon from last month and up over $.09 a gallon from last week according to westvirginiagasprices.com. The gas prices are expected to continue to rise with Memorial Day Weekend just a head and the popular summer travel months.
The high gas prices cause commuters like me to pay more to travel to my job. In the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia a great deal of West Virginians commute out of state to Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia everyday. In the Northern Panhandle many West Virginians commute to Pittsburgh. On of the largest industries in West Virginia is tourism. West Virginia has historic areas such as Harpers Ferry to visit. It has Ski resorts such as Snowshoe, Winterplace, Timberline and Canaan Valley to ski in the winter. West Virginia offers some of the best white water rafting on rivers such as the New, Cheat, and Potomac River. However, the higher gas prices are forcing more and more Americans to cut back on their travel and leisure activities. Therefore, West Virginians are being hit on an industry level and as consumers by the rising gas prices.
John McCain the Republican Presidential Candidate believes “we should institute a summer gas tax holiday.” According to his website this cut would be from Memorial Day to Labor Day. It would cut 18.4 cents per gallon on unleaded gasoline and 24.4 cents per gallon on diesel. He would also “stop filling the strategic petroleum reserve to reduce demand.” His website also states he “will end policies that contribute to higher transportation and food costs.” These sound like simple steps that could help to lower the gas prices. However, Republicans are in the White House now and these items are not being done. The “Gas Holiday” would not go into effect until 2009. At the rates gas prices have increased over the past year gas prices could be over $4.50 a gallon. So, even with the “Gas Holiday” we would actually be paying more. Who is to say McCain would follow course and institute the “Gas Holiday”? Over the course of a year, things could change and gas prices might not be among the top items on McCain’s agenda.
Hillary Clinton states: “I will provide solutions to offer relief from record gas prices, end our addiction to foreign oil, protect the planet, and create millions of new jobs.” Clinton’s plan to address high gas prices is “moving towards energy independence.” She proposes “to invest $150 billion in the research, development and deployment of clean energy technologies that will reduce our oil imports and cut global warming pollution.”
This is not a bad thing, cleaner fuels, less pollution, less oil imports all sound great. However, this will not happen overnight and does not offer any relief in the near future. Another part of Clinton’s plan would include “increasing vehicle fuel economy standards to 55 miles per gallon.” She “would raise fuel economy standards to 40 mpg in 2020 and 55 mpg in 2030. ” Again these changes would reduce the demand on oil and would help the environment. However, these changes would not take effect for 12 to 22 years. Clinton will call for the “accelerating the production of “Plug-In” hybrid electric cars.” She will do this investing to make the costs of these cars and batteries less, and offering tax breaks up to $10,000.
Again, this sounds good, but will take time before more affordable hybrids are available. She also calls for “increasing production of biofuels to 60 billion gallons by 2030.” Again 2030 is not a solution to today’s high gas prices. She shares McCain’s view for the freeze on additions to the strategic petroleum reserve. She also is “calling on the Federal Trade Commission to investigate market manipulation in wholesale oil prices.”
Barack Obama, like Hillary, is for increasing fuel economy standards. “Obama will double fuel economy standards within 18 years.” Obama feels “we should also be investing in new technologies,” he said, “so we can replace the internal combustible engine, which has served us well, but it’s time for us to move on, because we want to get rid of fossil fuels.” Which is fine, but it does not offer any short term relief.
Unfortunately for West Virginian’s none of the candidates have a complete plan to solve the high gas prices. McCain offers the best possibilities for the short term, with a possible summer time tax break. Both McCain and Clinton agree for a freeze on increasing the strategic petroleum reserves. Clinton and Obama offer some possible long term relief but those measures will only take place long after they have left office. West Virginia and the nation needs a candidate who can offer relief now from high gas prices and who can develop a plan to keep fuel prices low into the future.