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the Chicago Sun-Times

Don't Heed Promises of Easy Fuel Solution

Sometimes Sen. Phil Gramm is not all that wrong about American protests over high pump prices to sustain their behemoth autos as they soak up the oil reserves of the world. Ever since President Jimmy Carter, warnings have been issued about the risks of dependence on foreign oil.

Conservation, we were told, was the only solution. Actually there were other solutions, such as legislating stern mpg requirements, as European countries did, imposing heavy taxes on gas. In fact, the four and a half dollars a gallon Americans must now pay for gas is less than Europeans have been paying for 30 years.

However, Americans were convinced that they had the right to cheap gasoline and that no power in the world should take that right away from us. Now that the right has been sopped up, it ought to be clear that gasoline is an expensive commodity. Yet Americans continued to purchase it at a discount provided by their government.

Environmentalists warned every year that disaster was waiting just around the corner, but Big Auto insisted that Americans wanted big cars and small trucks and especially SUVs, gas-consuming monsters that were rarely used either for sports or utility purposes, but mostly to reinforce the masculinity of drivers of either gender.

And Big Oil lobbied fiercely against any restraints. If Americans wanted power and size in their cars and were unwilling to pay, then it was the duty of the federal government to provide such symbols of the county's ability to disregard the laws of nature and of economics.

So now the SUVs and the "light" trucks are rotting on the car dealers parking lots, and the American auto companies are racing to see who can reach bankruptcy first.


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There must be an easy way out. It is unpatriotic to concede that Americans cannot have what they want, especially since the high price of gasoline is hard on truckers, cab drivers, commuters, vacationers, road warriors, airlines and those who earn their livings servicing such industries. It's not fair, they complain to the media vultures who corner them at gasoline stations for comments. I can't remember a single such whiner suggesting that it was all our own fault.

From Day One, I hated SUVs. If you had the misfortune to park between two of them (say, Lincoln Navigators) you risked your life when you tried to pull out of your parking spot, particularly in a parking garage. In the words of Gilbert and Sullivan, they'll never be missed, oh, they never will be missed.

Politicians rush into the gap with soothing solutions. We must become free of the power of foreign oil. We must drill offshore or in the wilderness or in Alaska and we must do it tomorrow because the people are suffering. No one yet has suggested that we might invade Saudi Arabia and steal their oil. After all, they are our real enemies.

It is unfortunate that none of these solutions are available, that our economy must adjust to high fuel charges and admit that the real solutions -- conservation and alternative energy -- will not be on line for many years. Political campaigns will promise quick and easy solutions because the politicians know that the public is not mature enough to accept the harsh truth that chickens have come home to roost -- and they are money-hungry chickens.

The energy crisis, caused by immature consumers, irresponsible CEOs and dishonest political leaders, is not going to disappear before the election. The candidate who promises an easy solution -- business as usual -- is the one for whom not to vote.

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Andrew Greeley

Andrew W. Greeley is a progressive Catholic priest, sociologist, journalist and popular novelist. He is of Irish decent and resides in Chicago.

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