- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 30, 2006

Recently, I saw a tiny woman drive up to the gym in a late model Ford 350 pick-up. Spiffy in her cute baseball cap, she seemed to be making some type of fashion statement emerging from that huge vehicle. I don’t think she weighed 90 pounds. Yet she probably consumed two gallons of gas getting to the gym.

In a country where people value things according to their price tag, how can people be expected to appreciate and value a commodity priced lower than milk, and that for most of their lives was cheaper than bottled water? Cheap energy is not a birth right but a luxury we can not afford.

Is the Iraq war about oil? Every time we buy gas or oil, Hugo Chavez in Venezuela and the regime in Iran get wealthier. Economics teaches that price is a function of demand and supply. As the world’s premier energy consumers, we demand a quarter of the world’s oil supply, which elevates prices. If we want Venezuelan and Iranian leaders to focus more on their internal problems, each of us could help by curbing our demand for oil. Americans alone could effect a new equilibrium between supply, price and demand for oil. At the same time, Americans could effect redistribution of the wealth flowing from oil, and by living leaner, be stronger and deprive our adversaries.

The only way to reduce demand for oil is to raise its price. In a free market, taxation is the way to raise the price. The consequent decline in demand would affect world prices and mitigate the tax burden. The federal government would receive a windfall with which to address its deficits, making the country stronger. Americans can easily adapt to using 25 percent less oil, per capita. If Germans use half the energy Americans use on a per capita basis, we have a long way to go.

On September 11, 2001, Americans received a wake-up call. We were at war. We witnessed a few educated, well-heeled, dedicated young men kill themselves and murder many others for something they believed in. Each of them assumed personal responsibility for his cause, and together they shook humanity.

Is the war about personal responsibility? When aroused and united, Americans exert tremendous power. The irony is that ultimately, we fund the terror. Money spent on missiles fired at Israel and on roadside bombs in Iraq comes from the oil-supported economies of sponsors. We should use it to pay off our deficit.

Politicians discussing the war on terror will not argue for a tax on energy to curb consumption because of a lack of public support. Curbing oil consumption would be a huge step toward winning the war on terror, and provide a host of benefits. It is our personal responsibility to advocate for a higher energy tax. The argument is not new, but there has never been a more compelling time to make it.

T.J. ORBAN

McLean, Va.

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