Are State Lawmakers Doing Anything to Provide Gas Price Relief?

By: Whitney Daniel
By: Whitney Daniel

Knoxville (WVLT) - There hasn't been a new oil refinery built in the U.S. since 19-76, and almost 200 have closed down. It's one reason experts say America's gas prices are climbing.

Volunteer TV's Whitney Daniel takes a look at what lawmakers are doing to help curb the crunch at the pump.

Federal lawmakers made a move Tuesday when the U.S. House passed a bill that amends the Sherman Anti-trust Act to apply regular American anti-trust laws to foreign oil producers, like OPEC.

It's a small step into a future where we aren't paying more than three dollars for a gallon of gasoline.

"It's a free market out there, and they just do what they want with it," driver Judson George said.

Judson George has it right -- oil companies have the most control.

"As far as I'm concerned, they're ripping the public off, they're greedy, they've posted record profits," state senator Tim Burchett said.

But if lawmakers have their way, that won't continue, but on the state level they don't have many options. Either lower the gas tax:

"If we do that, we wouldn't be able to maintain our roads," Burchett said.

Or raise it.

"When you keep increasing the price of gasoline it's going to get to the point where it hurts us and our ability to draw people into our state," Rep. Stacey Campfield said.

Neither option is likely to pass without controversy. One thing everyone seems to agree on is something needs to change.

"We have been greatly taken advantage of by OPEC, and they've been able to do it because the environmental extremists have not allowed expansion of our refineries or of our oil production," Rep. Jimmy Duncan said.

Congressman Jimmy Duncan says increasing domestic production and speeding up the process for new refineries could help in the long run.

"If we don't start doing some of those things now, two or three or five years from now, you're going to see prices that make these current prices look like bargains," Duncan said.

Local drivers say every little step lawmakers can take helps.

"Any kind of legislation that will hold it down, put a cap on it, we just need some kind of cap," George said.

Lawmakers on both levels say nothing can be done overnight, but anything done sooner than later can help fuel the fire for lowering that price in the future.

For example, in the current budget, the state has allocated $20 million to study and get online with a product called Switchgrass. It's an effort that could cut fuel production in half, which can cut the cost at the pump as well.

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