We've reached the day gasoline costs more on Long Island than anywhere else in America. But when we asked our leaders, "What are you going to do about it?" they only seemed to hear: "What are you going to say about it to keep me off your back?"
Call it Beltway Tinnitus: Consultants, party bosses and special interests ringing in a politician's ears and drowning out the voice of the people. Randy Altschuler may have early onset of the condition, because he has yet to say a single word on this crisis.
Maybe that's because, until recently, he was a card-carrying member of the Green Party — the radical, left-wing fringe that fantasizes about hiking the gas tax. When Randy joined the Greens in 2000, their platform actually called for punishing owners of vehicles like minivans or trucks, and halting energy exploration on the outer continental shelf.
Timothy Bishop's proposal is no better, and certainly nothing concrete like building the Keystone oil pipeline from our ally up north. No, the only idea Bishop proposes is cutting subsides for gas companies.
That'll drive down fuel costs, right?
Sen. Mary Landrieu, Louisiana Democrat, says it "will not reduce gasoline prices by one penny." And a Democrat committee stated: "Repealing the oil industry's tax subsidies will not impact gas prices for American consumers," language Bishop included in a 2010 statement but scrubbed from last week's reheated version.
Our fishermen can't fill their tanks with empty gestures. Recently, Newsday reported that federal fluke quotas (which Bishop promises to fix every election year) force Islanders to unload their nets elsewhere. One Montauk-based captain sails 30-hours out of his way to New Jersey.
Anyone who's fed a hungry boat motor shudders to imagine his fuel bill.
But rest easy, baymen! This isn't a "crisis," not if you listen Bishop and Obama. They banned that word from their recent statements, as if they can change reality by changing terms. No, no, they say. This is just a "spike" or "fluctuation." It reminds me of Ronald Reagan's quip in 1980: "Let it show on the record that when the American people cried out for economic help, Jimmy Carter took refuge behind a dictionary."
Long Islanders know this is a crisis, just as we know the Keystone pipeline is a good idea. NPR reported that when Regular gas jumped 59¢ in New York, in Denver it rose just 25¢, thanks mostly "to bargain-priced oil coming in from Canada."
So why is Bishop silent on Keystone? His union friends support it. Does he stand with them and with us, or with Obama and $100 fill-ups?
Obama keeps saying, "There are no quick fixes," scolding us like impatient children. He says we have to sit idle, watching our salaries go up in smoke out our tailpipes, waiting for magic fuels the Greens have been promising for decades.
But if we don't hit the brakes on these prices and fast, we'll pass $5 gas by summer. That won't be a crisis; it'll be a catastrophe, especially for our tourism industry.
Truth is, Obama doesn't mind gold-plated gas. In 2008, AP reported he "suggested that the main problem with high gasoline prices is their rapid rise, not their total of about $4," and his Energy Secretary said: "Somehow we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe," about 2-1/2 times ours.
Well, Americans don't want European gas prices.
We want action.
Investor's Business Daily suggests, "Obama could drive down oil prices right now simply by announcing a more aggressive effort to boost domestic supplies. When President Bush lifted a moratorium in 2008, oil prices immediately fell $9 a barrel." In 2006, Mr. Bush also suspended the federal mandates on "boutique fuels," the dozens of different gas blends that refineries produce for specific regions of the country, allowing cheaper blends to flow nationwide.
There are other ideas, too. Remember when Hillary Clinton and John McCain suggested a Gas Tax Holiday? Very few people liked it, but at least the Senators tried. They recognized that throwing our hands up in surrender isn't the Spirit of '76. It's not the guts that split the atom and put a man on the moon. If at first we don't succeed, we "try, try again."
After all, we are Americans. We can solve any problem if government gets out of our way.
So to Tim Bishop, I say: Don't be afraid to trust the people for answers, don't let Beltway Tinnitus deafen you to their wisdom — and please, don't tell us there's nothing Washington can do.
President Obama promised he'd lower the seas if we elected him.
Compared to that, lowering the price of Regular should be a snap.