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No Time to Drain Creative Energy

The CEO's of these big oil companies have publicly stated for several years that the process of collecting and refining crude oil into gasoline is so exorbitant, and the supply so limited to hostile regions, that it's tough making an honest living as an oil baron. Add to those troubles, the government's environmental mandate that ethanol, a more expensive product to manufacture, be blended into gasoline, and consumers almost feel guilty for cursing the oil manufacturer pocketing a disproportionately high profit with so much of the government's help.

These CEO's would go on to say, unless companies have easier access to crude oil unattached to foreign purse strings, the market will be set by forces other than the good hearts and business acumen of regular ol' folk, your friends and mine, British Petroleum, Exxon Mobile, Royal Dutch Shell, and Chevron. &

Poor Exxon. If only the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge wasn't surrounded by so much lovely crude oil. But no one really knows how much is there. It will require years of exploration and drilling to discover what lies below the surface. In the end, the speculative nature of accessing more oil can in no way immediately ease pressure at the pump.

So, what is the motivation behind the spunky bipartisan Senate bill to both allow offshore oil drilling and to demand new and old vehicles convert to alternative fuel sources? What I really want to know is, if this is the same old song being sung by CEO's and government energy officials during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, why is the issue suddenly becoming a deal-breaker (or deal-maker, for John McCain ) in the upcoming presidential race? Are Americans just showing up more peeved than usual after filling up their tanks and driving to the town hall meeting?

Or could it be that constituents are peeved at having less discretionary income in general, and looking for solutions in a variety of ways, including exerting pressure on politicians to make energy more affordable? &

A recent Associate Press story may connect a few of the dots: " Rising prices beat down consumer spending in June ." If retaining the option to go shopping every weekend to maintain an outsized status quo is the main fuel behind the Zogby poll claiming majority of voters approve offshore oil drilling, and thus John McCain's candidacy, then this is as troubling as Exxon Mobile's CEO parlaying a bonus check into a pity party.

The nation's addiction to foreign oil pales in comparison to the retail-therapy addiction that so often substitutes for creating a sustainable economic future. But nothing tops government subsidization of windfall profits for oil companies at consumers' expense. At the very least, any presidential energy policy should now address the imbalance in power at play in this ongoing chain of supply and demand.

What questions do you have about the Statewide General Election coming up on Nov. 8? Submit your questions here, and we'll try to answer them in our reporting.