Pain at the pump

Gas prices set a record at $3.60 a gallon nationwide April 28, up 66 cents from a year ago. Experts expect prices above $4 a gallon this summer. Rising fuel costs are hitting virtually every area of our economy — not just at the gas pump but in the supermarket too.

Meanwhile, Exxon Mobil and Chevron were expected to report soaring quarterly profits as we went to press.

Hillary Clinton and John McCain are proposing a “gas tax holiday” that would suspend the 18.4-cent per gallon federal gasoline tax and the 24.4-cent tax on diesel fuel for the summer. It appears the McCain-Clinton idea is more an illusion to garner votes than a solution since such savings is minimal and the cuts to roads and construction jobs would be considerable.

The real way to get relief at the pump, and the supermarket, is to put curbs on the oil companies, not further drain the federal treasury.

Citizen advocacy groups charge that the oil giants deliberately limit refinery capacities, keeping supply artificially low and prices high. How about legislation to stop this?

How about opening up these corporations’ books to public scrutiny? Let’s see exactly how they are setting prices that go way beyond the actual costs? What else could explain their mammoth profits?

How about ending tax breaks for these oil giants, and using the money to invest in renewable energy and fuel-efficient transportation?

Clinton and Obama have called for a federal investigation of possible manipulation of oil markets, and support windfall-profits taxes on the oil companies. They also say they will end the Iraq war, which is not only deadly but also energy-guzzling. Pro-corporate McCain opposes such taxes and wants to “stay the course” in Iraq.

The struggle for affordable energy and curbing oil company greed will not end in November. But getting a Democratic veto-proof majority in Congress, electing as many progressives as possible, and a Democrat in the White House, will be a critical first step.