- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 4, 2012

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

No matter where I am in Virginia, a top concern on people’s minds these days is punishingly high gasoline prices. We’ve all felt the shock at gas stations. To fill a 20-gallon tank costs an additional $40 or more than it did just three years ago. Heck, it costs $20 to fill just a 5-gallon gas can for grass cutting.

I have heard from many families that skyrocketing gasoline prices are severely straining already hurting household budgets; small business owners tell me they are cutting back in other areas to pay for increasing gas and diesel costs; local restaurants and shops are suffering because customers don’t have the extra money to spend, plus the fuel surcharges for deliveries are causing strains. Even local governments and school districts are feeling the hit of high fuel costs.

In the three years since President Obama was inaugurated, the price of regular unleaded gas has risen from $1.85 per gallon to $3.94 today. My website, TooMuchAtThePump.com, makes the impact transparent with a gas-price calculator that compares the full-tank price in January 2009 to today’s cost, based on your vehicle. For example, a gentleman I met last weekend drives a Ford F-150. He was paying $48.10 to fill up his truck three years ago - today he is paying $102.44. That extra $54 every time he fills up is money he doesn’t have to go out to a restaurant, save toward his children’s college education, buy gifts, pay bills or invest.

The impact goes beyond the cost of a fill-up. High gasoline prices affect the cost of getting children to activities and the cost of commuting - a major issue in Northern Virginia suburbs, where residents have longer commutes to work.The same applies to rural areas from Southwest Virginia and the Shenandoah Valley to the Richmond area and Hampton Roads suburbs.

Soaring gasoline prices touch virtually every aspect of our economy - food, clothing, furniture, just about all goods become more expensive because manufacturing and delivery depend on oil. Economists have warned that continued high gasoline and diesel prices could threaten job growth in our fragile economy.

With so much at stake, one might expect Washington to be doing everything in its power to unleash America’s plentiful energy resources.

Sadly, partisan politics continue to keep America’s energy resources off-limits, superseding the short- and long-term solutions that would allow us to take control of our own energy destiny.

Even as President Obama and Tim Kaine profess their commitment to an “all of the above” energy strategy, the White House continues to prevent Virginia from safely producing natural gas and oil off our own coast. The president blocked the Keystone XL pipeline, which would have created thousands of new jobs for Americans and increased supplies of affordable energy from our close neighbor and reliable ally, Canada. New leases and permits on federal lands have slowed to a crawl.

It seems oil, coal and natural gas don’t belong among the politically favored portion of “all of the above.”

As American households struggle with astronomical gasoline prices, Washington has more pain in store with onerous regulations aimed at new coal-fired power plants. These edicts from the Environmental Protection Agency will bring to our monthly electric bills the same pain we are now feeling at the gasoline pump.

It is time to put an end to Washington’s partisan posturing and remove the self-imposed barriers to producing energy from American resources. The federal government’s energy policy has been stuck on empty for far too long. It is time for a real energy strategy - one that encourages common-sense conservation while unleashing the full range of resources and creativity to secure our energy future. Let’s recognize that the United States has the most plentiful resources in the world right here under our own land and water. What is missing is the political will to unleash them.

These are the reasonable solutions I propose in my Blueprint for America’s Comeback - the solutions I am committed to working for if I have the honor of representing Virginia’s voices and values in the United States Senate.

With gasoline prices already more than double what they were when Mr. Obama took the oath of office and headed higher, the urgency is clearly here.

By reversing current counterproductive energy policies, we not only will put America on a path toward energy freedom, we have the potential for an industrial renaissance in America, creating millions of new, good-paying jobs and generating more than a trillion dollars in new government revenue - without raising taxes. We can improve our nation’s competitiveness and national security. And yes, we can help restore the promise of the American Dream by keeping our money, creativity and jobs in a booming USA.

George Allen, former Virginia governor and senator, is a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate.

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