A prescription to ease our pain at the pump

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As a doctor, I am used to hearing patients describe their symptoms in a variety of ways. Recently, my patients have begun to describe a condition which seems to defy traditional medical diagnostic procedures. Some describe feeling a "lighter sensation in their wallets." Others complain about having to "dig much deeper into their purses." Still more complain that the sight of a dashboard fuel gauge approaching "empty" brings them great physical and mental discomfort.

After consulting all available medical literature, there is only one conclusion to make: All of these patients are experiencing the classic symptoms of "pain at the pump," a condition brought on by extremely high gasoline prices.

Regrettably, the Democratic leadership in Congress seems determined to make the conditions Americans face worse instead of better. Recently, the Democratic chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Rep. John Dingell, has announced his intention to introduce legislation to raise the federal tax on gasoline and diesel fuel by 50 cents per gallon! This would be an additional charge, levied on top of the already existing federal tax of 18.4 cents per gallon for gasoline and 24.4 cents per gallon for diesel fuel.

If the Democrats are successful in their effort, how would this affect the average driver in Georgia? According to the American Automobile Association the average price for regular gasoline in Georgia is $3.22 per gallon. If Rep. Dingell's plan passes, this would automatically rise to $3.72 per gallon for regular gasoline. For diesel the prognosis is even worse. The average cost of diesel fuel in Georgia is $3.98 a gallon. With Rep. Dingell's plan in place, the average cost would jump to $4.48 per gallon.

FUEL PRICES approaching or exceeding $4 a gallon are only going to exacerbate consumers "pain at the pump." These prices will only make an already existing condition worse.

To treat the problems associated with "pain at the pump" it is necessary for Congress to immediately take the following actions. Consider it my prescription for dealing with this problem.

First, Congress must realize that the problem is not that gasoline is taxed too little, but that it is already taxed too much. Members of Congress should join me in opposing any efforts to increase federal taxes on fuel. Given the economic disruptions caused by the current high price of gasoline, Congress should go one step further and consider reducing or eliminating the already existing federal tax.

Second, Congress should let America become more energy-independent. If we could drill for more oil and natural gas off the coast of the United States or in the Rockies or Alaska, it could add to our ability to be less reliant on foreign energy sources. By increasing the world supply of oil and gas with our own existing resources, we could utilize the laws of supply and demand to bring the price of fuel down. An additional benefit would be that we could break the stranglehold on energy that is currently being enjoyed by countries in the Middle East that do not have America's best interests in mind. Let me be clear, this can definitely be done in an environmentally sound manner, and should be implemented immediately.

Third, we need alternative forms of energy production, including biofuels such as ethanol that are already in use; nuclear power that has proven to be an incredibly safe and successful source of power; solar; wind; and advancing technologies such as hydrogen fuel cells. The growth of Georgia and our nation will entail using all economical means available to us.

FOURTH, WE should encourage the construction of new refineries in the United States. It does little good to increase our use of domestic supplies of oil if we do not have the refinery capacity to quickly convert this fuel into a form usable in the market place. Because in part of successful lobbying efforts by environmental activists, there has not been a new refinery built anywhere in the United States in decades. We urgently need to upgrade our refining capabilities.

These four proposals serve as a prescription for the kind of energy policy this nation needs -- one that makes us stronger and less reliant on countries hostile to freedom, and one that will help cure the problem of "pain at the pump." But that would take a Democratic Congress willing to put an end to their desire to tax everything they see, and willing to stop playing politics with the environmental lobby at the expense of average Americans' ability to afford the fuel they need to work and live.

Our nation has been blessed with abundant natural resources. We shouldn't be hesitant to tap into them, especially at a time when energy costs are so high. Until Congress gets serious about the issue, "pain at the pump" seems to be a problem with no immediate treatment on the horizon.

Congress should remember the first rule of the Hippocratic Oath that I, and all doctors, take. That rule? "First, do no harm." By proposing to increase taxes on gasoline and by handcuffing our efforts to use domestic fuel sources, the Democratic Congress has shown that they don't understand this simple rule. I shudder to think of the implications this has for any future efforts by a Democratic Congress to implement universal health care.

(The writer is a member of the U.S. House of Representatives representing Georgia's 10th Congressional District, which includes Augusta.)

Comments (27) Add comment
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DeborahElliott2
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DeborahElliott2 04/12/08 - 08:00 pm
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Put it this way, Regardless

Put it this way, Regardless of who is to blame, if the price of gas does go to about $4.00 per gallon, it would cause a Stagnation of the economy as it is. Truck drivers all over would then strike, slowing down economic supply and demand, People would more than likely riot or steal gas at the pumps which we all know is about to happen anyway, and lets not forget that people would not be going to work which would really be something for just one day. Can you imagine what Congress would do if everyone had a day or two off due to the fact they can't afford to go to work????

patriciathomas
42
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patriciathomas 04/12/08 - 08:32 pm
0
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Regardless of who is to

Regardless of who is to blame? How do you fix a problem if you don't know what causes it?

patriciathomas
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patriciathomas 04/12/08 - 08:34 pm
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Well said Dr Broun. The only

Well said Dr Broun. The only stipulation I'd like to add is that the government encourage alternative fuel development, not mandate it. Tax breaks for research encourages new developments. Mandates precipitate the current horror show we're experiencing with the corn to methanol scam.

johnsmith
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johnsmith 04/12/08 - 10:03 pm
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Wow, maybe old Paulie will

Wow, maybe old Paulie will actually READ people's responses to his guest op/ed, since he certainly does not read the mail that reaches his office. Or maybe he just has a staffer do a summary, wherein he loses the fact that he is losing supporters through his arrogance and stupidity. See, this op/ed draws me to Broun. He even supports the FairTax, which is my fondest hope for America. And THEN...and then, I get the *()&%*&ing robocall...and you know what? When Broun's robocaller dials my house and wakes up my children, he is reminding me that I will vote for ANYONE BUT BROUN, anytime I have the opportunity. The really good part is when I write a clear, concise letter to his office, formally requesting that he remove my number from his database. What do I get? A form letter thanking me for "supporting" him. What a complete moron. And, of course, more robocalls, always timed to wake up the kids. Make sure you understand it, Paulie -- ANYONE BUT YOU. Whoever is telling you that invading my privacy is a sign of "caring" must be working for your opponents.

grouse
1635
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grouse 04/12/08 - 10:36 pm
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One question for the good
Unpublished

One question for the good doctor: Why didn't the Republicans take care of this when they had both House of Congress along with the White House? Patricia, the free market place shouldn't need tax incentives aka corporate welfare.

Haddock
0
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Haddock 04/13/08 - 05:44 am
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Good question Why didn't the

Good question Why didn't the Republicans take care of this problem when they had both the House and Congress? Maybe someone in that position will come online with a good answer.

christian134
1
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christian134 04/13/08 - 06:02 am
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Blame game is great...you

Blame game is great...you blame this one while I blame that one so on and so on and so on.....Some where there is a solution and let's pray wiser heads with meaningful solutions come forth and are put into play....Ouch ....I am having problems mowing my grass....What used to take pennies to mow a yard is now a major undertaking...:-) Thinking of buying a goat....

DeborahElliott2
4
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DeborahElliott2 04/13/08 - 07:11 am
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christian134 It is cheaper

christian134 It is cheaper to get chickens cause not only is it legal, but they can keep grass down a LOT when it comes to finding snakes in the yard. They love chasing those things cause to the chicken, a snake is FOOD~

patriciathomas
42
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patriciathomas 04/13/08 - 07:40 am
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grouse, what's your point? Do

grouse, what's your point? Do you mean to say none of these problems existed until 2001? Do you recall anything good done during the 4 years of Republican control? Do you recall how the attempt to fix social security turned out? Republicans didn't have has much control as you think. Tax incentives are corporate welfare? Mandates cripple the free market. (see health care)

ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts
6855
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ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts 04/13/08 - 08:12 am
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If I recall correctly Jimmy

If I recall correctly Jimmy Carter was a democrat and we had gas rationing under his tenure!

shivas
2
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shivas 04/13/08 - 08:55 am
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Republican Addendum: Number

Republican Addendum: Number 5- We have obtained dinosaur DNA and are on the verge of bringing them back for fossil fuel production. We are offering tax breaks for all oil companies to begin fossil fuel production. The money for these tax breaks will come from the discontinuation of all programs for poor and disabled children, who give nothing to society anyway. Democrats are evil, and are to blame for all energy issues in this country by making-up facts that fossil fuels are bad for the environment. Let your own lungs and health be the guide that tells you how silly this is. Next time in Atlanta just take a nice deep breath!!!

robartbyrrd
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robartbyrrd 04/13/08 - 09:24 am
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Dang shivas, THAT sounds like

Dang shivas, THAT sounds like a plan--work to make it happen!!

Nona
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Nona 04/13/08 - 09:38 am
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Nuclear is not the answer.

Nuclear is not the answer. Want real energy independence? Support putting a Nanosolar factory in Ga. that will reduce the cost of photovoltaic panels considerably. Have a tax rebate program that will further lower the cost of installiion on your own roof, and real net metering laws in Ga. and SC., like California's, that guarantees the utility will buy back your excess electricity at a fair price. Then have Kia build plug in hybrids in Ga, priced competatively. Put solar on your roof, a plug in hybrid in your garage, and eliminate your high electric bill and your total "pain at the pump" will be cured. Not that's the energy independence I'm looking for. How about you?

Little Lamb
43350
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Little Lamb 04/13/08 - 10:29 am
0
0
Why are the democrats saying

Why are the democrats saying they want oil prices low and housing prices high? We need the marketplace to tell us the real value of things. High oil prices will make us adjust our priorities for the better. Don't tax big oil, instead buy big oil stocks!

DuhJudge
206
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DuhJudge 04/13/08 - 10:37 am
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Why does the Federal tax on

Why does the Federal tax on fuel even exist? Interstates are maintained by the state DOTs?

robartbyrrd
0
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robartbyrrd 04/13/08 - 10:46 am
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duhjudge, the states get

duhjudge, the states get money form the feds to maintain the interstates.

SoonerorLater
0
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SoonerorLater 04/13/08 - 11:31 am
0
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Once again everyone looks to

Once again everyone looks to the government to solve problems when a solution if within the grasp of ordinary citizens. Buy cars that get good gas mileage and do away with the gas guzzling SUV and truck the serve no purpose for everyday drivers. My wife drives a hybrid that gets 45 MPG, from a car that got 20MPG. I traded in an SUV at 20MPG and drive a car that get about 33MPG overall. We as a family have effectively cut our fuel consumption almost in half. Now if everyone did something similar, ordinary citizens can have a great impact on gas prices, dictate what autos the industry sells, and save money as well. Ordinary citizens have more power than they realize, and when they exercise that power, exponentially the savings and impact can turn this countries oil crisis around.

johnsmith
9
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johnsmith 04/13/08 - 11:53 am
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RJH, all of that is good, and

RJH, all of that is good, and I support the concept. However, it will not lower gasoline prices. Look at what happened in Charlotte: water authority pushed CONSERVATION. People took it to heart and water use went down 20%. So, naturally, what does the water service do? Raise its rates significantly to make up for lost revenue. Water demand is like gas demand (currently) is: in the aggregate, you can only reduce it so much. In a perfect world, if everyone in the US did what you did, we would all use 1/2 as much gas. Great! Then world demand elsewhere would soak up that excess production, at which point prices would start going up again. We'd be paying the same number of dollars per week, month, whatever, in spite of using 1/2 the gas. Understand: I don't think it's a BAD idea, and we've done the same in my house, but it won't do much about the price of gas. I've always maintained that petroleum is too precious a commodity to be burned in cars, anyway--wait'll it actually IS all gone and we can't make plastics for keeping operating rooms sterile. Uh-oh. Nuke, baby, nuke. Hydrogen fuel cells, the hydrogen generated by the greatly-proliferating nuke plants we OUGHT to have.

mgroothand
5
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mgroothand 04/13/08 - 12:27 pm
0
0
The situation differs with

The situation differs with each individual. I drive an older model gas guzzler but because of gas prices I have limited my driving to absolute necessities only. My vehicle has plummeted in value due to gas prices. I could trade it in on a 4 cylinder or a hybrid but it would still cost me over $10K. Someone else would be driving my gas guzzler and $10K buy a lot of gas even at today's prices. So who wins but the car dealer?

johnsmith
9
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johnsmith 04/13/08 - 01:46 pm
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mgroot, you are exactly

mgroot, you are exactly right.

grouse
1635
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grouse 04/13/08 - 02:04 pm
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Patricia, by going off on
Unpublished

Patricia, by going off on other tangents, you obviously can't answer the question either. Also, when was the last time YOU given a tax "incentive?" It funny that large companies get tax incentives, but not the small business owner...

patriciathomas
42
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patriciathomas 04/13/08 - 02:23 pm
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grouse, every congress

grouse, every congress doesn't attack every problem. picking ones not addressed and ignoring ones addressed has no point. The fact that these subjects weren't major news items doesn't mean individuals weren't trying to get them to the floor. There's a lot more to congress then headlines. The last tax incentive I got was the two tax cuts the Bush administration instituted. Do you know when the tax cuts expire (as promised by BO and Hillary) the tax on the bottom wage earners will increase 50%? I'm not going off on tangents, I'm just assuming you know all of these things when I respond.

grouse
1635
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grouse 04/13/08 - 06:39 pm
0
0
High gas prices and
Unpublished

High gas prices and dependence on foreign oil are not new problems. Dr. Broun is quick to play partisan politics, but his own party did nothing while they had the chance. Frankly, I've not received any benefits from any Bush tax cuts. Being self-employed, we get the shaft big time.

robartbyrrd
0
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robartbyrrd 04/13/08 - 07:45 pm
0
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grouse, guess you didn't get

grouse, guess you didn't get the tax rebate during his first term????

johnsmith
9
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johnsmith 04/13/08 - 09:59 pm
0
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Grouse, the SBA and its

Grouse, the SBA and its low-interest, easy-access small business loan program is an enormous subsidy, paid by every other taxpayer. In percentage of revenue, I wager that those loans amount to a greater "subsidy" for a small business, than do the modest tax incentives granted to "Big Oil." Jesus Christ...you all can't find a problem in the world with subsidies for tobacco and sugar (substance liberals try to ban on health grounds), but you object to tax incentives for companies that produce and market THE key ingredient for economic growth in this country? I haven't seen a thing in the paper about people objecting to peanut subsidies, or subsidies to people who agree NOT to grow rice, or corn, or wheat, but it's URGENT that we roll back whatever tax break we're giving petroleum producers, while simultaneously repealing the ONLY tax break that applies to EVERY payer of fed income tax (raising the lowest margin from $10k to $15k). So, let's see, we're going to raise the taxes on every federal taxpayer, and increase the cost of gasoline and plastic, in order to..."punish the RICH"? You just can't possibly be that dumb. This is some sort of gag, right? Hidden camera stuff, right?

DuhJudge
206
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DuhJudge 04/13/08 - 11:03 pm
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johnsmith, people do forget

johnsmith, people do forget that there are a FEW more products that come from crude oil than transportation fuels and that these fuels subsidize the cost of those other products. However, I do believe that the market system for establishing commodity prices is totally messed up. It is manipulated by governments and big business that create artificial prices managed by people that have NOTHING to do with the industry. Take for instance oil. The swings in price can not be explained by the hedge investments made by refiners, but by the profit investments made by the banks and brokers. They take advantage of a market designed to project costs and predict prices. And because they are playing with a LOT of money to make more money it disrupts the real market for that oil. The commodities market was a different animal from the stock market, but not anymore.

johnsmith
9
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johnsmith 04/13/08 - 11:28 pm
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DuhJudge, that's true. We've

DuhJudge, that's true. We've seen (recently, more so) a lot of bidding up of prices of commodities by "players." However, those players take an ENORMOUS risk when the underlying market won't support the prices they're offering. Right now, it's working for them, because pent up demand worldwide is soaking up the price increases that they cause. However, what that means is that all they are doing is accelerating the high prices that would've hit anyway once that demand was felt in the mkt. In other words, they are anticipating demand that DID materialize. Wait 'til they anticipate demand that does NOT--we'll have another gov't bailout, I guess. My point is, unless you can afford to buy oil and pump it into caves (and only the US govt does that), your market moves have to reflect an actual supply/demand reality; these guys are just making $ off the "spread," and they have to be right to make, rather than lose, money. It's easy to be right, now, with 2BN potential NEW customers...bid it up!

Pay What U Owe
5
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Pay What U Owe 04/13/08 - 11:56 pm
0
0
I hate to do this but please

I hate to do this but please allow me to jump in with johnsmith, Paul Broun is a complete egregious moron. I thought getting ridding of boot-lick Whitehead would send a message to the Repub establishment that we neededd free agents, not toadies, as our congressmen. How disappointing that this radical cretin who apparently is an actor staging town hall meetinsg is what we got! I think of Osama Bin Laden shows up and runs against Broun, we might should consider it. What greater threat to Freedom that disinterested incompetence?

DuhJudge
206
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DuhJudge 04/14/08 - 11:11 am
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What??? Congressman Broun has

What??? Congressman Broun has voted in a consistent manner with and against legislation that the people in this District MUST agree with. States rights and Constitutionality, Morality, Need, and Affordability are all the good reasons any man should vote. How many use this test? How many even bother to read the legislation before they vote, as DOES Rep. Broun. Choose Bin Laden???????? Disinterested incompetence???? When?

DuhJudge
206
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DuhJudge 04/14/08 - 11:29 am
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johnsmith, exactly. The

johnsmith, exactly. The commodities futures market is a relatively new marketplace for many of the products now being traded and most of them were invented by bankers. It was originally designed for industry players that buy positions in multiple contracts for multiple months, even years. Now you, and I, and insurance companies, and major funds can all play in it together, but we are not likely to have the same time interests. We are simply BETTING on the weather, the war, the politics, the rate of interest, and the production quotas, generally for today. PETRONOIA is very infectious for people that do not need 50,000 barrels to be delivered to their front door.

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