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Gas price outrage, but little substance

NBC  News’ Washington bureau chief and host of "Meet the Press" discusses the politics of high gas prices.

MSNBC:  We’ve heard a serious of proposal to mitigate the high and ever-increasing gas prices.  Tim, is this a case of too little, too late of can something really be done at this point?

Russert:  It’s going to be pretty tough.

People are hopping mad.  NBC News and the Wall Street Journal did a poll that shows more people are concerned about gas prices than Iran having a nuclear weapon.  It’s just spiked in terms of the national consciousness.

The president and the Republican leaders of congress are talking about investigations and price-gouging.  The Wall Street Journal is accusing Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, R-IL, of sounding like “Dennis Pelosi.”  That’s the title of their editorial.

It’s really remarkable how the politicians are trying to get out front of the issue and avoid the anger of the American public.

MSNBC:  The discussion of gasoline prices and profits even interrupted the debate over emergency military spending Thursday.

Russert:  This issue is front and center with politicians falling over themselves trying to get in front of gas pumps to articulate some position.  Outrage, but little substance.

It’s very hard to see how gasoline prices are going to go down.  No one has a tangible plan, in the short term to do that.

It’s ironic we’re talking about this, because I was just reading an article about Brazil.  Next year Brazil’s entire automobile fleet, will run on sugar cane.

They have weaned themselves off of oil.  They started a decade ago and they’ve done it.  So it can be done.

MSNBC:  But the United States is addicted to oil.

Russert:  That’s what President George W. Bush said in his last State of the Union speech.

But, think of the ramifications of that.  We get oil from Mexico and Canada, that’s fine.  Then there’s Venezuela, Iran, Saudi Arabia.  That could change overnight.  We would then be hostage to our gluttony for oil.  It’s a real problem.

MSNBC:  With all the talk going on – the investigation into gouging might or might not go anywhere, another proposal calls for $100 gasoline rebate for millions of taxpayers with no word on where that money might come from.  Could this just be talk, to sound like they’re ahead of the issue?

Russert:  When they talk about rolling back the federal tax on gasoline, that sounds appealing, but that’s six billion dollars more on the federal deficit.  There are no good alternatives because we have not been serious about dealing with this issue.  It’s going to take a long, determined systematic plan. 

In the end, the automobile manufacturers, the environmentalists, the energy companies and the government leaders are going to have to sit down and say, “Where do we want to be ten years from now and how are we going to get there?”

MSNBC:  What will Meet the Press be discussing this Sunday?

Russert:  It’s going to be a special edition. We’re going to devote the whole hour to this issue.  We’ll have Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman, President of the American Petroleum Institute Red Cavaney, the Senate Assistant Democratic Leader Dick Durbin of Illinois, author & energy analyst Daniel Yergin and CNBC’s Jim Cramer.

All Sunday, on Meet the Press.