- The Washington Times - Friday, July 7, 2000

Cut gasoline costs, not taxes, to help U.S. consumers

The column by Donald Lambro in the June 29 edition of The Washington Times headlined "Gas price issue waiting to ignite," correctly points out that the real problem with prices at the gasoline pump stems from a variety of factors, including inadequate production by oil-producing nations. But Mr. Lambro's assertion that Republicans should push to suspend or repeal the federal gasoline tax doesn't address the real problem and would only hurt consumers more in the long run.
Moreover, the proposal being advocated by Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott actually would hurt our nation's motorists because it would result in the loss of $21 billion in federal funding to make needed road and bridge improvements that improve roadway safety, relieve traffic congestion and make needed pothole and road and bridge repairs as well as promote the economy.
The federal gas tax was first devised as a pay-as-you-go way for building the nation's interstate system without taking needed money from the general fund. It is the fairest way to pay the needed improvements because those who use the highway system pay for its use. Today, as our nation's population continues to grow, traffic congestion, highway safety and urban sprawl are becoming issues that must be addressed. As our nation enters an e-commerce era, our transportation infrastructure will become even more important to ensure the timely delivery of goods. Ordering goods from the Internet will not work if we do not have the transportation system to deliver them.
When needed repairs are not made, it costs motorists in the following ways:
The average motorist pays $126 a year in additional vehicle operating costs when needed road repairs are not made. Motorists pay $23 billion a year in extra vehicle repairs, tire wear and operating costs to drive on roads in need of repair.
Traffic congestion costs motorists in the nation's largest urban areas an average of $755 per motorist per year, for a total of $72 billion a year because of extra time spent in traffic congestion and extra fuel consumed while sitting in traffic.
Roadway safety improvements such as widening roads and shoulders and adding lanes and medians will help reduce accidents and save lives, federal research shows.
Let's put the focus back where it belongs and address the issue of rising oil prices in a way that will help consumers the most by bringing down oil prices permanently without tampering with our nation's transportation system.
WILLIAM M. WILKINS
Executive director
The Road Information Program (TRIP)
Washington
TRIP is a private, nonprofit organization funded primarily by contributions from the road construction industry.


The Washington Post's lazy and incompetent reporting of the gasoline price issue is irritating but not surprising. However, I expect a dollop of journalism from The Washington Times. Dan Thomasson's June 25 Commentary column, "Political vapors at the pump," sets new standards for the conservation of mental energy in writing.
Mr. Thomasson's column is based on something a service station dealer reportedly told Mr. Thomasson's son in Chicago. Essentially every assertion repeated by Mr. Thomasson is false, which he could have discovered with even the barest of checks. Let me cite just a few of his journalistic gaffes:
Probably the dumbest is seeking enlightenment from a service station operator on complex issues involving Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) production levels, the cost of producing specially formulated gasoline and supply-and-demand problems. That guy may be an expert on auto repair, but a competent reporter should know where that expertise ends. Oil companies will talk to reporters if asked.
Service station dealers are independent businessmen; they set their own gasoline prices at the pump. The distributor almost certainly would not have told the dealer to "push up prices," and the dealer wouldn't pay any attention if he did unless it suited the dealer.
Contrary to the "expert" statement of the dealer, Alaskan crude oil is not a factor in Chicago gasoline prices because only a tiny percentage of Alaskan crude gets to Midwest refiners. Substantially more than half of the U.S. crude oil supply is imported, and imported oil both sets the price for domestic production and substantially affects product prices.
He repeats the canard that "the highest gasoline prices in U.S. history" are likely to damage the economy. The fact is that gasoline prices, measured in real buying power, are among the lowest in history except for last fall and winter. A recently published report by the Cambridge Energy Associates compared inflation-adjusted prices from 1918; it is available for reporters too lazy to do the arithmetic themselves.
The Environmental Protection Agency and the Energy Department certainly deserve a great deal of the blame for the disparity of prices in the Chicago area and (and for similar problems in California.) In attempts to control local air pollution they mandated special gasolines that are both expensive and unmarketable outside the target area. The rules essentially isolated the target areas from the normal in-and-out movement of gasoline in response to supply and demand. The results are apparent and unpleasant when demand exceeds expectations. The reverse also is true (but less apparent) when lower demand leaves companies stuck with high-cost gasoline that isn't salable outside the region.
Slathering the Clinton administration is fair game for a columnist, and I usually enjoy it. However, even columnists have some obligation to stick to the facts in a newspaper, and Mr. Thomasson fails when he uncritically reports what his son heard a dealer say maybe.
ROY K. MURDOCK
McLean
Mr. Murdock is a retired oil industry executive.

Change hearts and minds, not laws, to reduce numbers of abortions

If there is a way to rid America of partial-birth abortions, the "most heinous kind of death known to mankind," in the words of Joseph R. Pitts, Pennsylvania Republican ("House GOP to fight for partial-birth ban," July 5), I am convinced it is not through legislation. If the public shared the same sentiments as Mr. Pitts, we would have very few, if any, partial-birth abortions.
What would happen then? Doctors would no longer need to use the procedure (except in life-threatening cases) because it would be in such low demand. Legislating the procedure out of existence would no longer be necessary because the people would have ended it themselves. If and when America comes to realize that partial-birth abortion is indeed a heinous crime, it will not be because Washington legislated it to be so, it will be because we have decided in our hearts and minds that such an act is indeed wrong therein lies the beauty of choice.
ALEXIS LAMB
East Falls Church

Shooting of young Dale City boy was not really accidental

With all the anti-gun hysteria in this country, I encourage The Washington Times to refrain from suggesting that the weapon is to blame for accidental shootings. In the article I read in the June 25 edition of The Times ("Dale City boy, 10, dies in accidental shooting") it was stated that "the gun accidentally went off." I frequently see statements such as this, and they are simply wrong.
Folks not qualified in the mechanics of weapons may be led to believe that guns spontaneously discharge, causing death and injury. This is just not true. The fact is that these boys were not properly trained in the use of firearms, and the 13-year-old child accidentally shot his 10-year-old brother.
The first three gun safety rules are:
Never point a gun at anything you don't want to shoot.
Never load a gun unless you intend to use it.
Keep your finger off the trigger until ready to fire the weapon.
A 13-year-old is very capable of understanding these simple rules. The gun is not to blame. It takes mechanical force to discharge a gun. If children obtained the family car keys, entered the car and started the engine, which resulted in a death, we wouldn't state that the car accidentally started up. It is time to start placing the blame on people, not devices. In this particular case, the parents should have stored the weapon in a safe place. In all cases with guns in the house, parents must teach the children gun safety. This is another example of how the trigger lock law and other litigation just won't work without responsible and educated people.
FRED C. SEBLY
Mount Airy, Md.

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