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Seattle Times Political Caucus

The Seattle Times Political Caucus is an online community aimed at adding diverse voices to our coverage of politics. How we'll use the Caucus will evolve over time. But the idea is to create a conversation with people of various backgrounds and political beliefs. As the election season unfolds, we'll ask participants to weigh in on key political questions and then post their comments here.

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July 17, 2008 4:51 PM

What to do about soaring energy prices?

Posted by Katherine Long

The Labor Department says consumer prices shot up in June at the fastest pace in 26 years, and two-thirds of the surge is blamed on soaring energy prices. We asked the Seattle Times Political Caucus: Assuming that oil prices are still breaking records and causing further economic woes when January rolls around, what steps should the next president take in his first 100 days in office to address the nation's energy crisis? Are there steps that the state Legislature and governor should also take? Here's a link to all of the answers we received.

Many caucus members were enthusiastic about solar, wind and hydrogen, while others wanted to lift the ban on offshore oil drilling and push for nuclear power. A number favored tax breaks to individuals and businesses who use solar power, hybrid cars, carpooling, or public transporation; some suggested better long-term land-use planning, and a few wanted employers to embrace a four-day work week or expand telecommuting.

"The most pragmatic among us advocate for more oil drilling; the most idealistic advocate solar and wind power; and the most scientific advocate nuclear power. However, the true answer to our nation's energy crisis is: ALL of them, " said Alex B. Berezow of Seattle, a strong advocate of nuclear power.

Matt Helmer of Ballard believes that now is the time to begin "wholeheartedly moving our society toward greener sources of energy. The first step for the next president is to publicly ask Americans to join him in this Green Revolution by conserving, recycling, using public transporation, and adopting other environmentally friendly behaviors."

Asking people to do with less could be tricky. "I realize that neither candidate wants to repeat (President) Carter's mistakes (and ask for sacrifices from the electorate) but it seems to me that that is precisely what is needed," wrote Fatema Karim of Richland. "Towards that end, I would like to hear them express support for public buses, trains and ferries."

Jeff Grubb of Panther Lake thinks that federal benefits to oil companies, such as tax breaks and leases should be redirected "to turn the energy companies towards non-oil based strategies (wind, solar, etc.) There is willingness among the energy companies to go in that direction (T Boone Pickens is pushing windpower, for heaven's sake), but our regulatory infrastructure is supporting the old ways."

Kristi Brown of Seattle thinks that restrictions should be lifted on drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and the state gas tax should be reduced. Long-term, she and a number of other caucus members called for the construction of new oil refineries, and an emphasis on developing nuclear power.

"Price signals and market forces will do a far better job than government meddling," argues Paul Graves of Olympia. "High prices have encouraged both additional exploration for oil and have made investment in alternatives more economically viable. In the same way, consumers are reducing their demand for oil by heating and cooling their homes less, switching to more efficient cars and processes, and substituting. Over time, both of these developments will tend to lower oil prices."

Don Manuszewski of Cibolo, Texas, also thinks the market will take care of much of the problem. "I'm no economist but the way I understand supply and demand it seems obvious to me - the excessive lifestlye many people enjoy, even though it's out of their economic means, has to be cut off. Personal responsibility has to make a comeback."

David Iseminger of Seattle wants mass transit projects to become a high priority for the state's leaders. "With an ever increasing state population the need for more transportation capacity will only continue to grow as will oil dependency/demand. Designing mass transit that runs on more energy efficient fuel sources would address many concerns - fuel dependency, transportation congestion, and green house emissions to name a few. It seems a no brainer to make this sort of investment."

Sarah Everett of Seattle writes, "It's odd to me that our nation can put an intelligent rover on the surface of Mars, yet it can't streamline the flow of traffic, nor develop alternative means of fueling our vehicles. We need a coordinated strategy and the people to implement it. That's what the next president can provide."

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