The DeFuniak Springs Herald and Beach Breeze is dedicated to informing its readers on the candidates and issues so that they will be prepared to make an informed decision when it comes time to vote. From now until the November general election, the Herald-Breeze will pose a new question each week to the chairmen of the Republican and Democratic parties in Walton County and publish their responses.
Here is the first question.
Soaring gas prices are costing Americans, not only at the pumps, but in the form of increased prices in almost every kind of private industry and business sector due to increased transportation costs in their own operations. What is the best plan for short-term relief and long-term solutions?
Graham Campbell-Work, chair
Walton County Democratic Party
The price of gasoline affects all Americans in some form or another. In a society where the chasm between the rich and the poor is so great, this is one of those rare issues where no class is immune. Not only is it felt at the pump, but also in the price of the groceries that fill our shopping carts. Due to increased transportation cost, the price of everything must go up to compensate for this rising expense.
As for a short-term solution, on July 25, the senate voted on a motion to proceed to an up-or-down vote of S. 3268. This bill was known as the Stop Excessive Energy Speculation Act of 2008. Oil, in the United States, is openly traded on the New York Stock Exchange. This bill would have temporarily, if not permanently, banned the unregulated speculative trading of oil futures. Without this unbridled speculation, it is estimated that the price of a barrel of oil could be as low as $55 a barrel. Unfortunately this bill failed to receive the 65 votes required for it to proceed. This is felt by many in both parties to be the only fully legitimate short-term solution to this particular crisis.
Long term solutions, by their nature, are far easier to come by. Drilling in the Gulf of Mexico only prolongs our dependency problem, as stated by both Senator Bill Nelson (D) and Senator Mel Martinez (R). The damage to our environment and the damage to local tourism far outweigh the amount of fossil fuel there is to be found off of our Emerald Coast. As has been stated by oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens, we cannot drill our way out of this problem. He has proposed energy alternatives that would make perfect sense and, with the proper legislation backing them, are sure to win the hearts and please the pocketbooks of the American people. The United States imports more that 70 percent of the oil it uses. This oil not only fuels our vehicles, it also powers our homes. Studies show that the wind power in North Dakota alone would be enough to power a quarter of the country.
The oil crisis, as it stands today, is not a partisan issue. In fact, not since the days of Rockefeller and the Standard Oil monopoly, has this been a partisan issue. It is a matter that touches the lives of all Americans regardless of race, age, gender, or political affiliation. The common ground is there, if only we will reach for it.
The development of alternative fuels and energy sources, coupled with common sense legislation as mentioned in the paragraph above, is the only viable solution to long-term oil dependency.
Tim Norris, chair
Walton County Republican Party
We have many opportunities for short term relief. One is car-pooling, another would be to make less routine trips to a particular location. For example, instead of going to the post office, purchase stamps online. Public transportation also comes to mind, if it is provided in your area.
Long term relief would be to develop new technological energy products that provide energy savings. We need to start using wind and solar to power our homes. The government gives tax breaks for those who construct their homes with these products. We need to rethink where we live and how we get to work. How can we get to our jobs by using transportation sources that use little or no oil products.
Bottom line, oil is a commodity that is traded on the global free market, and a basic principle of free market economics is that the less government interferes in them, the more efficient they are. Efficient markets mean the best (lowest) prices for buyers.
Therefore, the best (long and short-term) solution is for the U.S. government to stop interfering with the market, lift its ban on drilling and allow the market to work. Brazil discovered recently that billions of barrels of oil sit in difficult water beneath a swath of the Santos Basin, 180 miles offshore from Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo.
The U.S. has known for decades that at least 8.5 billion proven barrels of oil sit off its Pacific, Atlantic and Gulf coasts, with the Interior Department estimating 86 billion barrels of undiscovered oil resources.
We need to rely less on the oil from the Middle East, other oil providing countries and rely on ourselves. This would be a great start.