No matter how acute the pain at the pump, Washington cannot stabilize global oil prices that are largely a result of external events over which the United States has little control. But policymakers can make a difference in dampening the impact of volatile oil prices.
The first step is to eliminate Big Oil subsidies and tax breaks, immediately. As evidenced by ExxonMobil’s posted first quarter profits of nearly $11 billion, the oil companies do not need hard-earned tax dollars to survive. The next step is for Congress to set an oil price floor — now, when gas prices are high — to spur ongoing innovation and promote alternatives to oil and autos. Seventy percent of oil consumed in the United States is for transportation, yet funding to upgrade our transportation system suffers from serious insolvency. A fixed, paltry 18.4 cents a gallon funds transportation whether the price of gas is $2 or $4 a gallon. So when oil prices rise, only Big Oil benefits.
It’s high time that we find other ways of fueling our mobility.