Black gas-price Monday?

The cost of a gallon of gas hits an all-time high, which makes Sen. Chuck Schumer gloomy. He should cheer up

Published May 21, 2007 11:32PM (EDT)

Gas prices hit an all-time high Monday. That's including adjustments made for inflation. That's worse than after the OPEC embargo and Iran-Iraq war oil shocks.

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., who has been railing about high gas prices for months, immediately called a press conference, saying, "Today is a historic day in a very bad way."

This high price signals that we can no longer have business as usual in Washington. The idea of doing a little bit here, a little bit there, making sure the oil companies are happy -- those days have to be over, plain and simple. Prices are high now. They're going to get higher later. If we keep pursuing the same types of policies, we'll be wishing for the day of $3.22 a gallon because prices will be at $4 and $5 and $6 a gallon.

Schumer reiterated points he has been making for weeks at every opportunity. "We ought to look at ... breaking up the oil companies, undoing the mergers that occurred in the late '90s ... Massive investments in conservation ... a real energy policy with teeth that ... develops a crash program of the kind of alternative fuels that our country needs and demands."

I don't mind Schumer going all Teddy Roosevelt and shouting, "Break up the oil companies!" And of course massive investments in conservation and an energy policy with teeth should be applauded. But he's much too gloomy when he tells us that Monday is historic in "a very bad way."

Quite the opposite. Nothing more inevitably ensures that alternative fuels will be developed faster or that more investment will pour into energy efficiency or that more voters will elect politicians who decide to follow California's example on energy issues than the reality of high gas prices. It's not a coincidence that on Friday USA Today reported that Americans are finally driving less, for the first time in 26 years. Yes, it's gonna hurt, and it's going to hurt working-class people who are dependent on automobiles the most. If Schumer really wants to do something proactive, he should figure out how to cushion that blow with some good old-fashioned wealth redistribution, while letting the high price of gas work its price-mechanism magic.

By Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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