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Jack Simpson - Americans face an energy crisis

The energy crisis is frustrating, isn't it? Gasoline prices seem to go up overnight and solutions to the problem seem elusive. Even the president's visit to Saudi Arabia with a plea for relief fell on deaf ears to some extent. Some say it is speculators causing the fluctuation in prices. Others say it is world demand for energy. Still others blame oil-producing nations and oil companies for gouging the common man.

Regardless of cause, working folks want relief and watch as candidates explain how, if elected, they plan to tackle this serious issue, as well as the economy in general.

One observer believes Brazil could be our savior. They produce lots of ethanol from sugar cane. If import fees are lowered, we could gain some immediate relief. On the other hand, America's corn farmers would scream they were being discriminated against and corn prices would fall. By not diverting so much corn to ethanol production, other food products using corn might experience a price decrease. This would benefit consumers.

The president has withdrawn a ban on offshore drilling. If Congress approves, more search for oil off our shores might reveal greater oil sources. Yes, but it is doubtful any immediate relief will result because there are not enough platforms available for extensive drilling. Even if more oil is found and exploited, probably our children, not us, will benefit. It will take years before such oil might come to market helping to reduce costs at the pump.

So what do we do? Build more nuclear power plants, find more biofuel sources, build more hybrid, economical cars? Trade in the SUVs, find a way to run cars on efficient batteries?

If you have the solution, here is your chance for fame and riches. Meanwhile, pass your favorite service station and note that today's price for regular, unleaded is about $4.09, up from $3.99 yesterday. Who knows what it will be later today or tomorrow morning!

People are caught in a squeeze between oil producers and world consumers. Presidential contender John McCain tells us we need energy independence, and until we get it, we should have a gas tax holiday. Sen. Barack Obama tells us it is the speculators we need to control. Meanwhile, lots of folks are screaming in economic pain and changing their lifestyles.

Obama moves more to the center and readjusts some of his views. McCain visits Billy Graham and goes to Latin America. Obama plans a trip to the Middle East.

Here at home, as the gasoline prices go up and up, Americans are looking at bicycles, Vespa scooters, and checking their computers for today's cheapest fuel prices. The economy is in trouble and everyone feels it.

Jack Simpson is a former educator, veteran, author, and a law enforcement officer. His column appears each Friday.