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Cleveland Foundqtion Energy Expert Advocates Higher Gasoline Prices

Ohio governor Ted Strickland joined 16 other Democratic governors recently asking President Bush to help lower gasoline prices. The request came in a letter dated May 22nd. But an energy expert in Cleveland believes that gas prices are not too high, they're way too cheap. The letter Gov. Strickland signed concludes in part by saying:

"Talk is much cheaper than gas prices. Now is the time for action. Together we can make America less vulnerable to the pain at the pump."

But according to an energy and environmental fellow at the Cleveland Foundation, the U.S. will never overcome its addiction to gasoline until the price becomes unbearably high.

"True political leadership is about making the public aware of an impending, looming situation that needs to be dealt with," said Richard Stuebi. "And the way to deal with it is to require near-term pain, short term sacrifice."

The foundation's Stuebi says that pain and sacrifice should be endured as new, technologically sophisticated energy sources are developed in the decades ahead. As far as the price of gas is concerned, Stuebi says the public has not factored in the $30 billion a year the government pays to protect the U.S. oil supply overseas.

"If you were to allocate or spread that out over all the gasoline gallons that are consumed, the price at the pump ought to be many dollars higher; some people would say $10 higher than you see today," Stuebi says. "The taxes associated with gasoline consumption are very small relative to the costs of securing the supply of gasoline. So in a world where the true economics of gasoline are not being felt by customers then how can the free market have an impact in a marketplace that is so affected by implicit and explicit subsidies?"

Public reaction to the higher priced gas idea is mixed. Vicky Webber, who was buying $10 worth for her Volkswagen Beetle says she does not agree that higher prices are the answer to the energy problem.

"Pay more for gas? No, I don't really think that's the right way to go," Webber says. "I think keep up with the ethanol production and we just need to get a president in there who cares about the environment and wants to get things going on the right track because that's what has to happen."

On the other hand Gerald Walls says he does not fault the Bush administration. He says it would take $10-a-gallon gas to get his attention. No matter what the price, he says the rich will always drive because they'll always be able to afford it.

"We've got this thing with the love affair with the automobile in America; the love affair is just going on," Walls says. "And if Americans like driving to a store that's only a tenth of a mile from their house that's what they're going to do. They don't believe in riding bicycles, they don't believe in walking."

Chris Palagano who was having lunch with co-workers says he has no idea what the breaking point might be.

"Well you wonder if they could ever raise the price of gas so high that people would actually change how they live. Not just buy small cars but move closer to work. What price of gas do you have to get to?" Palagano asked.

In a statement on his website, Gov. Strickland says he's committed to "making Ohio the epicenter of alternative and advanced energy production..." The more energy we produce here at home, Strickland says, the less dependent we'll be on foreign oil.