February 27. 2012 7:53PM

Soaring Gas Prices: But no shortage of hot air

There is a growing belief that gasoline prices will hit $5 per gallon this year. The impact on family budgets will be devastating. The inflationary impact goes without question: Trucks transport virtually all of our goods and services to market. Higher fuel costs will be reflected in soaring prices everywhere. The cost of flying will increase, to reflect the higher cost of jet fuel. An increase in oil prices causes the cost of plastics to rise. Our fragile economic recovery may be derailed.

It is 2012. Yet, we remain at the mercy of foreign oil-producing nations. Why?

Many of us today can remember the Arab oil embargo of 1973. The endless lines at gas stations. The promises that foreign energy dependence must end. Now!

In 1973, we were importing 36 percent of our energy consumption, an increase from 22 percent only a few years earlier. Today, nearly 60 percent of the oil consumed in the United States is imported, from Canada, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Venezuela, Nigeria,Iraq, the United Kingdom, Norway, Angola, Algeria and Colombia

The bottom line: The United States is more dependent on imported oil today than ever before.

This despite the 1973 passage and signing of the Emergency Petroleum Allocation Act, imposing government regulation to ensure lessening dependence on imported oil. This despite the so-called “Project Independence,” intended to free the United States of foreign oil dependence by 1980. 1980! Thirty-two years ago. And we are still waiting.

This despite the creation of the Federal Energy Office in December 1973. And this despite the creation of the Federal Energy Administration in 1974, which became the new federal Department of Energy in 1977. In 2010, the department had a $26 billion budget. Apparently a reward for increasing our energy dependence by at least 24 percent.

On top of that, the oil industry receives $4.4 billion a year in tax credits, and still our situation is worsening, not improving.

There has been an abject failure, both on the part of government and private enterprise, to move this nation closer to energy independence. In point of fact, government involvement has done little but to create a web of conflicting objectives, rules and regulations while spending billions. The failure has greatly increased this nation's vulnerability, particularly in the volatile Middle East.

Ultimately, the fault doesn't rest with the government, and it doesn't rest with the oil companies.

It rests with us: We the People.

It rests with us because we have tolerated this worsening situation for four decades. It rests with us, because we elect the officials who have failed and failed again,while spending tens of billions on no clear solutions.

It rests with us, because We the People are the only ones who can say, with finality: Enough. End the charade. Address the problems. Build the pipelines. Find the energy alternatives. Clear away the environmental restrictions — and provide the tax credits and research funds necessary to find ways to deal with any potential environmental consequences.

We have no one to blame but ourselves for the prices we are paying at the gas pumps. The problem has been obvious for 40 years. The only real question is whether we will continue to allow the situation to worsen — or begin demanding solutions.