Editorial: Time for an oil change (Bennington Banner)

As usually happens, whenever the prices of fuel oil and gasoline reach record highs, the public starts clamoring for action and politicians start talking and making little or no sense.

The notion of eliminating the 18.4-cent federal gasoline tax for the summer to give drivers a break is one that should, and likely will, die a quiet death. Since it would take money from funds used to repair bridges and the like, the plan would rob Peter and Paul and a few others in order to pay Paula.

Lowering the gas tax might make Americans feel better for a time, however, and for that reason maybe it is worth considering. Otherwise, we have little in our national life at the moment to cause people to jump up and down in joy. Endless wars, sinking economies and long legislative sessions tend to bring us down.

There are some good ideas out there, however, if Americans look closely enough. U.S. Sen. Bernard Sanders has one, or more, which he details below. We like the idea of an excise tax on oil companies, which would be used to fund a temporary gas tax reduction.

It also makes sense to put much more pressure on Saudi Arabia to increase oil production to help lower the price worldwide. Since we are the principal reason that feudal nation is not beset by Islamic extremists, they owe us big time.

Using the nation's Strategic Petroleum Reserve also might have a positive effect, and anyway, what is it there for but to relieve a crisis situation? Our economic outlook today would seem to qualify.

But long-term what we have to do is face the reality of high oil prices and begin to sink federal dollars into energy conservation. First and foremost, we need higher auto mileage standards, building insulation, newer equipment and technology; funding and tax breaks for alternative energy technology and its implementation.

We also should be revisiting the use of nuclear power — at least to the point of replacing existing old generation plants, like Vermont Yankee, with new facilities.

It's too bad not much is likely to happen until the oil men are out of the White House.