Sunday, May 07, 2006

Democrats urge action on gas price-gouging

Democrats urge action on gas price-gouging
By Matthew Daly, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON — With gas prices above $3 a gallon in many places, Congress should pass legislation by Memorial Day to make price-gouging a federal crime, Sen. Maria Cantwell said Saturday in the Democrats' weekly radio address.

Cantwell, of Washington state, also called for increased investments in alternative fuel development to break what she called America's over-reliance on oil, particularly from other countries.

"It's time that we simply stop talking about energy independence and start running toward a future that will make America more secure and more economically competitive," she said.

Cantwell, who is seeking her second term this fall, said gas prices have shot up more than 70 cents in one year, leaving consumers with few options.

"The American economy and American families are hurting," she said.

Cantwell cited reports of school days being canceled because local school districts can't afford the cost of diesel fuel for buses, and airline jobs and pensions being lost "because airlines can't afford the skyrocketing cost of jet fuel."

While about half of the oil consumed in the United States comes from foreign countries, Cantwell said Democrats believe America can be "energy independent" by 2020.

"It begins with conservation and efficiency," she said. "We can ask Americans to sacrifice. We can ask Americans to conserve. We can ask Americans to innovate and invest in new technologies. We just can't ask them to accept the status quo."

Cantwell said it was time to end huge tax breaks for big oil companies. She said they should be replaced with new incentives for cars that are made of lightweight, efficient materials and can run on either ethanol or gasoline.

Republican spokesman Tucker Bounds said Cantwell "promotes a number of policies that Republicans are already pursuing, but doesn't mention any real intention to work with the majority of her colleagues to find solutions."

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