Letter to the Editor

Gas prices are sad testimony

Friday, October 31, 2008

To the Editor:

The recent record high gas prices in Indianapolis are a sad testimony to the fragility of our energy infrastructure and the inadequacy of our reserves. Even now that gas prices have finally fallen, our current situation is such that any disruption can cause the price of fuel to soar.

This is nothing new. We have been dealing with high fuel costs for some time now, and as a result things are slowly starting to change. The Congressional ban on offshore drilling quietly expired recently, setting the stage for the expanded domestic production that could help keep gas prices down.

However, just giving U.S. oil companies access to more fields is only part of the solution. We desperately need Congress to establish an overall regulatory and tax environment that is conducive to producing more fuel.

There are still too many politicians who want to tie more drilling opportunities to tax hikes and the elimination of common manufacturing deductions for oil companies. Those are flawed strategies that economists point to as restraints on productivity. In other words these legislators want to give oil companies the go ahead with one hand but hold them back with the other.

That will not work. We have to give these U.S. firms every incentive and opportunity possible to produce the fuel that will rein in prices.

Keeping gas prices under control is especially important to college students.

Students are usually living on the edge of poverty to begin with, and $4 gas is enough to push their precarious budgets right over the edge.

Students have never been less able to withstand an increase in their expenses. Last year, the average annual cost (books, lodging, etc.) for an in-state public university was over $17,000. The tab at a private school like Butler University here in Indianapolis was over $35,000.

This staggering price tag is affecting the choices students make. A study done at UCLA in 2007 found that fewer students were attending their first-choice school than at any time since the mid-1970s. Those polled cited cost as the number one reason. And far too many students are dropping out completely because they just can't raise enough money to stay in school.

Not a college student? Think it's not your problem?

Think again.

Every student who drops out is one less potential teacher, doctor or engineer in America. It is one less qualified person to help solve some of the problems we face. Keeping young people in school is important to all of us.

The shift in Congressional attitudes toward offshore drilling is an encouraging sign.

It starts us on a path toward expanded domestic energy production of all kinds, a mix of traditional fuels to meet our immediate needs and the development of viable alternative fuels to sustain us in years to come.

This is only the first step.

We must keep working towards a federal regulatory and tax structure that will maximize the incentive U.S. energy producers have to explore and develop those newly liberated reserves.

If we fail to do so, the gas prices we are complaining about today may be nothing compared to those we will face in the future.

Lauren Fakes

President, Butler College Republicans