I wrote about this last week, but it bears repeating because no Colorado politician has yet jumped on the gas increase issue for their campaign. I’m amazed that nobody has used this issue yet because, as I wrote before, it is one of those rare issues that truly does affect every person in Colorado. Health care is not one of those issues, because people who have affordable health care really aren’t touched by it. Education isn’t one of those issues, because people who can send their kids to good private schools don’t have as strong of a personal stake. But escalating gas prices hit everybody, and the first Colorado politician to seize on that could really make a strong statement.
The strength issue isn’t being lost on everyone, however. On Friday two senators from the midwest took a shot at it. This is from a joint press release:
Senators Mike DeWine (R-OH) and Herb Kohl (D-WI), Chairman and Ranking Member, respectively, of the Antitrust Subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today sent a letter to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and Federal Trade Commission Chairman Deborah Majoras expressing concern over the unprecedented rise in gasoline prices in Ohio, Wisconsin and throughout the nation. In the letter, DeWine and Kohl urged the two agencies to launch an immediate investigation into the causes of these price increases, and to prosecute any and all persons or entities engaging in price gouging, price fixing or any other illegal or anticompetitive conduct.
The devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina has disrupted oil supplies, refining and pipeline facilities. But it is simply unconscionable for unscrupulous individuals to take advantage of this tragedy by engaging in price gouging. All such immoral and illegal conduct must be promptly and aggressively investigated and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
Throughout Ohio and Wisconsin, gas prices have reached alarming digits, with three dollars per gallon commonplace and, in some cases, reaching to three dollars and fifty cents. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, many have forecasted that oil and gas prices could spike again to four dollars per gallon in many areas.
Emphasizing the need for immediate attention on the part of Justice Department and FTC officials, the Senators added that the suffering of consumers who must spend hard earned dollars to purchase gasoline to travel to work, to school, and to stores to purchase essential goods has become immense and is growing and it is critical that we determine if these price increases are caused by normal market conditions or are the result of illegal conduct or market tampering, and to vigorously prosecute all those engaged in illegal conduct.
Admittedly, this is a tough issue to approach because there is no clearly visible solution. But just by taking it on, Senators Kohl and DeWine look like they have the pulse of the voters in their respective states.
In Colorado, this is an issue that is going to keep resonating. I heard today that the Jefferson County School District estimates they may have to budget an additional (and unexpected) $2.5 million this year to cover rising oil prices — both for gasoline and heating. That’s a pretty big deal, and it illustrates the point that this is an issue that hits everybody.
So why aren’t Colorado politicians paying attention?