A Silver Bullet for High Oil Prices? Lawmakers Pounce on Subsidies, Offshore Drilling


Congress Attempts to Tackle High Gasoline Prices

Instead of trying to impact prices at the pump, lawmakers should be looking toward creating a long-term energy policy that alleviates pressures down the road and prevents the markets from dictating the fluctuations, experts say.

"Washington has very little to do with what people pay at the pump," said Ruchir Kadakia, director of Global Oil Fundamentals at IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates. "If they really wanted to make a change -- given that's kind of their role... you attack the problems from both ends. You don't address it for today. You address it for 20 years down the road."

That may entail measures unpopular with the public, such as higher gasoline taxes, a move that politicians from either side of the political aisle may not be able to commit to a year away from the election.

"Until people are willing to do very responsible things for energy policy, which may mean you don't get reelected, you won't see change," Kadakia said. "I think market forces will dictate change."

Lawmakers last year put forth a slew of comprehensive energy bills, led by Massachusetts Democratic Sen. John Kerry, but even though Democrats controlled both chambers of Congress, a bill never made it to the president's desk.

Moving forward, lawmakers will attempt to tackle the issue piecemeal, but with many other priorities on the table -- including the budget and the debt ceiling -- energy policy is unlikely to take precedence.

The two sides also remain divided along partisan lines. President Obama has proposed a bold goal of expanding alternative sources of energy, but there's little impetus to funnel money into new research and development programs when the pressure to cut spending, especially from the conservative bloc, is so strong.

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