Thursday, April 27, 2006
By BILLY McCOY
As gas prices at the pump rise higher and higher and our frustrations grow right along with them, many Mississippians are rightly wondering what can be done about it.
I hope in this article to offer my ideas on how to deal with this situation that threatens the economic well-being of us all.
I was alarmed recently when I pulled into a station to fill my pickup truck and a lawnmower with gasoline, and left the station about $70 lighter. I was not only alarmed, I was downright upset about it.
Legislatively, your state lawmakers made perhaps small but important steps during the recently-completed 2006 session to try to bring relief to our nation’s oil and gas problem.
One move discussed for years that came to fruition this year was the creation of an agency to regulate the use of state-owned vehicles. The bill includes a provision to encourage the use of fuel efficient or hybrid vehicles and to fill them with alternative fuels like biodiesel and ethanol, when possible. Encouraging their use is not enough; we must demand it.
We also created a study panel to look into the use of biodiesel and other alternative fuels such as ethanol, which could greatly enhance this state’s agricultural possibilities.
I understand that much more needs to be done at the state level and I feel sure that after our citizens go through a summer of the highest fuel prices we have ever seen, they will demand further action when the 2007 Legislature convenes.
I would like us to follow the State of Washington’s Legislature, which recently passed a law to require that two percent of that state’s gasoline and diesel consumption must be ethanol- or biodiesel-based by Dec. 1, 2008. Not just consumption for state vehicles, but for all vehicles public and private. This is the fourth state to pass such a law.
Being a lifelong farmer, I have always said we should make better use of our God-given assets such as the sun and wind and natural resources to help reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. And our institutions of higher learning should lead that effort.
We recognized in the McCoy Working Group report released in early 2004 that “increased emphasis on research and development leading to new products and giving added value to current products offers vast opportunities for expanding jobs and creating economic growth. Both universities and community colleges can be vital participants in developing these assets through relevant strategies and innovative objectives. State agencies dealing directly with the state’s agricultural and natural resources should be given ... expanded funding to further support and develop these identified opportunities.”
The Mississippi Legislature has not completed the goals of that report, but I will be pushing for further attainment of them. I also urge our Attorney General to monitor gas prices within the confines of our laws and constitution to protect our citizens from being gouged, from one end of the gas and oil pipeline to the other.
A few days ago the average price of a gallon of unleaded regular gasoline in this state hovered around $2.80 cents.
That kind of inflation at the gasoline pump will absolutely break the economic backs of our people and state government. I urge each of you to contact the President and our delegation in Washington to demand that something be done about this intolerable situation.
(Billy McCoy is Speaker of the Mississippi House of Representatives. He represents House District 3, covering portions of Alcorn and Prentiss counties.)
(662) 252-4261 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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