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War in Iraq, OPEC, Bush – Who to blame for rising gas prices?

One year after the United States invaded Iraq and ousted Saddam Hussein, much of the debate centers around whether anyone believes in pre-emption as a viable means for the United States to project its power.

Those supporting our endeavor in Iraq point to an Iraq on the road to democracy and less of a threat to the freedom-loving nations of the world. Those opposed to the war say pre-emption has alienated the United States from other countries in the world community. Although I can understand both sides of this debate, one thing is for certain: As a victim of rising gas prices, I think the United States needs to look at the policy of pre-emption as a means of regime change in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

The epidemic of the recent rising gas prices could be addressed by the current administration, but it seems reluctant to do so. Many in Congress have called upon the administration to halt stockpiling oil in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, temporarily easing the strain on demand. In addition, so many different formulas of gasoline required by different states lead to higher gasoline prices at the pump. Rather than simply having a federal mandate on gasoline, states such as California and Connecticut require additives that necessitate refineries to retool plants, impacting supply during the increased demand prior to the summer months.

The decrease in supply guarantees higher prices per gallon. Adding to the frustration, in an article by James R. Healey in the March 2 edition of USA Today, the Department of Energy released a statement at the beginning of March stating, “Spikes in gasoline prices are always of concern and something the Department of Energy monitors very closely.” I don’t know how much the taxpayers in this country pay to have the department monitor this situation, but I’d be happy to offer my services to monitor the gasoline prices at my local Hess station for a fraction of the price. This epidemic requires action to help consumers, not the same political rhetoric expected from an election year.

As high as gas prices have become in the United States, I realize that relative to many other nations we enjoy lower gas prices due to federal taxes imposed in other countries. We as a nation need to seriously pursue alternate forms of power so we are not beholden to OPEC, but that is a long-term fix. There must be some way the United States can convince oil-exporting nations to lower the price of crude oil and thus reduce the burden on Americans, especially those on fixed incomes.

President George W. Bush, a champion of the policy of pre-emption and recognizing the need of the common American, should start by pressuring OPEC on this issue, beginning with President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. President Chavez has politicized his nation’s oil production by stubbornly and outwardly backing a reduction in oil exports, which is supposed to begin April 1, partially as payback for the United States not backing him with his continued battle against domestic opponents in Venezuela. Chavez has gone even further and accused the United States of being behind a failed coup attempt in 2002 and threatening a 100-year war if the United States ever invaded his nation. While not totally believing that sanctions are completely effective, I think we need to look at them as one way to isolate countries such as Venezuela, which attempts to maximize profits.

Rising gasoline prices is a problem with many different origins, but if I have learned one thing from the current Bush administration it is that pre-emption is a valid policy toward achieving desired effects.

Although I don’t always agree with Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly, he recently noted that the rising gas prices could spell doom for the Bush administration and in O’Reilly’s opinion is the greatest campaign issue. His basis for such an argument is that the gas prices further substantiate an idea that Bush is not in touch with Americans day-to-day life. In proposing pre-emptive regime change in OPEC, I am offering a way for the Bush administration, through an existing theme of his four years, a way to give Americans relief at the gas pump.

Aaron Hill is a sophomore majoring in chemistry.