Weekly Column of U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) on“Gas Taxes and the Family Budget”

Posted on June 1, 2008

Tennessee families know that gas prices are at an all-time high. We feel the pain every time we visit the pump. Congress should be doing everything possible to reduce gas prices and support development of new and less expensive fuel sources. Instead though, the Senate is considering legislation aimed at addressing climate change that would limit the production of gasoline and other transportation fuels. Passage of this bill without change would lead to a 53-cent-per-gallon gasoline cost increase for the average Tennessee family over time. That’s why I’m offering an amendment to fix the bill and prevent this tax hike. Without my amendment, a Nashville family traveling to Gatlinburg for a summer vacation would end up paying nearly $240 more roundtrip on gas. Reducing the supply of gasoline or heaping on more taxes is not the way to protect the family budget. Harnessing American energy resources is the best way to address this problem. We should allow oil and gas drilling off our coasts and in Alaska to bring 1.5 million more barrels of oil per day into the market. I’ve pushed for environmentally responsible drilling and I’ve written legislation that would put a portion of these drilling profits into a fund dedicated to conservation – so while we are producing more American energy and reducing costs for families, we are creating parks and preserving the Great American Outdoors. To help with fuel costs I’ve also proposed a New Manhattan Project for Clean Energy Independence to focus on new technologies and emerging fuel-saving ideas like plug-in cars and trucks. We should work to make plug-in electric vehicles commonplace, burn coal cleanly, and produce more nuclear power. The more transportation and fuel choices we have the cheaper energy will be for all Americans. At the end of last year Congress took an important step by raising fuel efficiency standards for the first time in 30 years, which an expert at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory said was the single most important step Congress could take to lower the price of gasoline. I’ve sponsored clean air and climate change legislation during every two-year Congress since I was elected to the Senate – including legislation to limit power plant emissions – but the climate change bill being debated in the Senate would limit American energy production and that is the wrong approach. My amendment would save families hundreds of dollars a year in gasoline costs, and that is good for Tennessee and good for the nation.