The Leaflet - What To Do About Gas Prices?
With gas prices in some states soaring to more than $4 per gallon, many Americans are wondering why this is happening and what can be done about it. As a result President Barack Obama has been touring the country to talk about his energy plans.
While experts disagree as to how much can be done by government in the short term to lower prices, many believe the U.S. is in a great position over the long term to have more global influence with the right public policies in place.
According to Dr. Bernard Weinstein, associate director of the Maguire Energy Institute at Southern Methodist University and a Heartland policy advisor, “With its huge untapped reserves in offshore and deepwater reservoirs as well as oil shales, America has the potential to significantly boost oil supply and thereby become the price setter in the global marketplace. That’s the way to prevent future spikes in oil and gasoline prices.”
Some policies that could help the U.S. become a bigger influence in the world energy market include:
* Allowing the Keystone Pipeline to be built. This would bring more than 700,000 barrels per day of “friendly” oil from Canada in addition to as many as 20,000 new jobs to the U.S.
* Opening up more federal lands, both on and offshore, to responsible oil and gas drilling. According to the Congressional Research Service, the federal government owns more than 30 percent of the lands with oil-producing potential, yet oil production on those lands represented only 7.5 percent of the total oil produced onshore.
* Keeping tax rates low and ending subsidies for ALL types of energy, including those for fossil fuels and renewables, so that energy technologies can compete on a level playing field.
This week’s edition of The Leaflet features research and commentary addressing auto salvage fraud, birth control coverage, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, video privacy, and Washington taxes.
Bills Tackling Auto Salvage Fraud Pass in Florida, Utah
Auto salvage fraud is a little-known problem that can have devastating effects. Vehicles that have sustained heavy damage from accidents or natural disasters are often unsafe and should not be allowed back on the road. However, in recent years unscrupulous dealers have begun to exploit loopholes in laws to buy and sell these vehicles to often unsuspecting persons. In this article from The Heartlander digital magazine, Legislative Specialist Matthew Glans examines several pieces of legislation designed to strengthen regulations for salvaged automobiles and provide consumers with additional information on a vehicle’s salvage history before a purchase.
What We're Working On
On Somewhat Reasonable, Legislative Specialist Kendall Antekeier discusses a new addition to the contraception mandate that will require colleges to treat students as employees – covering their birth control “free of charge.”
At the request of the Milwaukee teacher union and school district, Wisconsin legislators approved a bill extending to the district the same policies that prompted union-backed petitions to recall Gov. Scott Walker, the lieutenant governor, and four state senators.
On January 31, the Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony for and against changing the Video Privacy Protection Act, a law written to keep video-store rental lists secret. Netflix was among the proponents of changing the law, which currently prohibits the video rental company from sharing subscribers’ streaming content on social media sites even at the user’s request.
Research & Commentary: Hydraulic Fracturing and Groundwater Contamination
The Environmental Protection Agency’s release of its draft “Investigation of Ground Water Contamination near Pavillion, Wyoming” in December 2011 has brought much attention to alleged risks hydraulic fracturing poses to groundwater resources. When considering regulatory actions to prevent such contamination, however, it is important to determine the real causes. EPA Region 8 Administrator James Martin testified the problems at Pavillion are uncommon and do not apply to other hydraulic fracturing operations.
According to Budget & Tax News, “One way or another, Washington voters may be asked to raise taxes in 2012 to bail the state out of a nearly $2 billion budget deficit.”
Members of the self-proclaimed fiscally conservative Democrat “Roadkill Caucus,” which gets its name from the belief that they’ve been run over by elected officials on the right and the left of the political spectrum, are also saying more reforms are needed before tax increases can be considered.
“If we’re going to have sustainability over what many of us see as maybe a six- to ten-year rocky period, then we simply can’t say ‘okay we just need to raise revenue and then we’re done,’” Rep. Deb Eddy (D-Kirkland) told KUOW (NPR) news radio.
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Could Onshore Reserving Make a Difference?
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The March issue of Environment & Climate News reports the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is fending off criticism after issuing a draft report claiming it has found chemicals consistent with hydraulic fracturing in groundwater in Wyoming.