By John Hill • Press & Sun-Bulletin • May 29, 2008
BINGHAMTON -- With oil companies exploiting the American people to rake in record profits, Congress should give the president authority to put a cap on gas prices, U.S. Rep. Maurice Hinchey said Thursday.
Hinchey plans to introduce legislation in the next two weeks that would give President Bush the authority to control the cost of gas. He would like to see the president cap gas prices at their March 2006 level -- $2.49 per gallon.
On Thursday, the national average for a gallon of regular gas was $3.95, according to AAA.
The legislation would be controversial, Hinchey acknowledged, but he believes it would provide stability to the economy. Oil companies could still turn a profit, just not the record profits they are currently making, the congressman said.
Hinchey, D-Hurley, outlined his plans to fight the rising cost of energy at One Stop Grocery on Front Street in Binghamton, where a gallon of gas cost $3.98 on Thursday -- about 2 cents cheaper than the average cost of a gallon of regular gas in Binghamton, according to AAA.
"As near as I can tell, this is about the least expensive gasoline you can find in this area," Hinchey said.
The United States also should pass tougher laws for gas price gouging, regulate energy commodities trading and increase fuel economy standards for vehicles to 40 miles per gallon by 2016, Hinchey said.
The congressman blamed the recent increases in the cost of gas on two factors: the weak dollar and the war in Iraq.
Johnson City resident Timothy Coughlin, who attended the Hinchey press event, disagreed with the congressman's plan. He said the United States already was sitting on the answer to its energy problems.
"We got the oil in the ground, let's get it out," Coughlin said, noting the United States could be drilling the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the Gulf of Mexico, among other places.
Hinchey said drilling in ANWR would have only a limited effect on gas prices. A bigger problem is oil companies are sitting on 30 million acres of land, refusing to drill on it to keep supply down and prices up, he said. The congressman said he is working on legislation that would tax that land -- at $5 per acre -- until the oil companies drill it.
No matter how it's done, Binghamton resident Randy Wright would like to see it done fast. He was filling up at the gas station on his way to Cortland to buy a camper, as Hinchey's press conference was wrapping up.
"I'm fixing to buy an RV," Wright said. "What's that going to cost me?"
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