Today's energy price crunch foreshadows life under a Gore presidency

By Jack Kemp

Copley News Service

The November election will decide whether the price of gasoline and other forms of energy comes down or rises even higher in the future. If the vice president is elected, we'll be paying a lot more for every kind of fuel under the regime of the Kyoto Protocol (the 1998 treaty on global climate change adopted in Kyoto, Japan) and similar initiatives that he has pledged to implement as president, with or without congressional assent.

Gore laid the groundwork for high energy prices with his assault on the internal combustion engine in his book, "Earth in the Balance" (soon to be re-released), and his relentless promotion of clamping down on use of fossil fuels (aka oil, gas and coal). The Kyoto Protocol on global warming (signed by the Clinton-Gore administration but never submitted to the Senate due to intense opposition) would require the United States to cut its projected energy use by 30 percent to 40 percent below 1990 levels - which means energy-use controls, price controls or both.

I have no doubt that the recent run-up in the price of oil is temporary. Left alone, the price of crude will fall as cohesion within the OPEC cartel dissolves, which always happens. The real danger in today's oil price spike is that if Gore is elected president, it will provide the cover for a new Gore administration to replace OPEC production controls with federal government taxes and regulations to keep the price of oil up. Read Al's book. Incidentally, just for the record, about one-third of the price of a gallon of gasoline is taken up in state, local and federal taxes.

What Gore and the Kyoto crowd want is command-and-control management of all energy use, with strict country-by-country limits on energy consumption, massive subsidies for economically nonviable "alternative energy sources" and bureaucratic micromanagement of virtually all economic activity. That brings back memories from the 1970s, when we imposed price controls and got quotas, gas lines, import controls and mandatory thermostat settings that intruded into all our waking (and sleeping) hours.

It didn't work. Only Ronald Reagan's decontrol of the energy market brought supply and demand back in line, broke the back of OPEC and helped spur new innovations in energy production through the good old profit motive. In fact, energy decontrol may be the unsung triumph of the Reagan Revolution.

If you agree that throttling the world economy and driving up energy costs is no way to address the issue of climate change (about which scientists are deeply divided, by the way), you must share my amazement in watching the Clinton-Gore administration play-act at jawboning OPEC, proposing new federal subsidies for home heating oil, pretending to contemplate tapping the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and fending off angry truckers - you notice they never mention the option of cutting the gasoline tax to give gasoline consumers some relief.

The truth is, it has been a stated policy objective of this administration from the beginning to drive up the price of energy. A Gore administration's objectives would be no different, but its dedication will be much greater. Read Al's book.

When OPEC obliged and raised the price of oil, this administration responded politically by falling all over itself feeling everyone's pain. But the price of oil remains near $30 a barrel, and the president counsels people to "remain patient" and "take a longer view," lest they demand what the president calls the "shortsighted and risky" option of an immediate cut in the 18.4 cent-per-gallon federal gasoline tax. Only a nickel of the 18.4 cents is required to maintain the interstate highway system, so the remaining 13.4 cents per gallon could easily be eliminated without harming our transportation infrastructure.

Yet this administration won't hear of it. And, believe me, when OPEC's cohesion finally dissolves and the price of oil is set to decline again, if Gore is in the White House, he will be first in line to propose new taxes and regulations to keep the price of oil from falling. Read Al's book.

Do we really want to turn back the clock to the days of big-government energy crisis "management," with all the unnecessary misery it caused? Or do we want to unleash market forces to bring the cleaner, greener, more efficient energy supplies of the future?

If you're in any doubt, consider this: The energy restrictions Gore is pushing under the Kyoto Protocol would cost American households as much as $2,700 per year on a recurring basis. They would add 50 cents more to every gallon of gasoline, drive home-heating oil prices through the roof and cost America 1.5 million jobs. The next time the president or vice president says he is "working hard" to bring down the price of oil, read Al's book.

Jack Kemp is co-director of Empower America and Distinguished Fellow of the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

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