Keys to bringing down gas prices

What to do about the cost of gasoline? We would favor a signal from the Bush administration of a willingness to begin releasing reserves and a stop to the stockpiling of those reserves, two moves we think would put the brakes on rising prices.

Last week, OPEC agreed to increase its output quotas by 11 percent - 2.5 million barrels a day, effective July 1 - which immediately knocked down the price of a barrel of oil by 68 percent. Prices at the pump have begun to ebb since the announcement, despite the predictions of experts that it would have little effect.

We've also seen the comparisons with the energy crisis of the 1970s which show that prices then were far worse, when measured in constant dollars, than they are today.

But here's something we didn't know - and the reason to be alarmed about the cost of a gallon of gas, especially in a state such as Nevada which depends so heavily on tourists traveling here during the summer months: Nine of the 10 U.S. recessions since World War II have coincided with or been preceded by spikes in oil prices.

That's what has us so concerned and why action is needed at the national level.

Dependence on foreign oil and the whims of OPEC can have dire consequences for both national security and the health of the economy. The attacks of 9/11 were obviously costly in human lives and the destruction done to the financial center of New York City, and the damage to the national economy was immense. Only now is it beginning to regain its previous pace.

Oil prices are artificially high simply because of the notion that Saudi oil fields might be at risk of terrorist attack. An actual strike at an oil pipeline or refinery anywhere in the world would send shockwaves through the economic centers of the world.

While production increases help stabilize the price, the better long-term strategy is renewed concentration on conservation measures. The United States must make fuel-efficiency, alternative fuels, electric-gas hybrid vehicles, mass transit and bicycle/pedestrian friendly communities high among its priorities. There's more at stake than few nickels at the pump.


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