Gasoline Prices

Gasoline prices in Texas have come down since early fall. The cheapest place in the state to fill up is Corpus Christi. The most expensive is Beaumont. But fuel costs remain higher than they were a year ago. Since summer, Congress has okayed two bills in an effort to curb energy prices.

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Just before the August recess Congress okayed a major energy bill. The package languished on Capitol Hill for years. Republicans wanted the bill to be their crowning achievement of the summer. Republican Texas Congressman Joe Barton chairs the House Energy Committee and shepherded the measure to passage.

The bill was an exclamation point that Congress was on the case just as Americans began driving long distances for their summer vacations. But even the best laid plans can go astray. A classic public relations nightmare loomed on the horizon for the G.O.P.

Republican Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison says the storm drove energy costs to record levels. And Republicans had a public relations debacle on their hands. After all based on the political rhetoric consumers expected relief, now.

So this fall Congress approved yet another energy bill to try to tame skyrocketing prices. And Energy Committee Chairman Joe Barton was back promoting another piece of energy legislation.

So the question is what did the first bill accomplish? And why did Congress have to scramble with other energy bills after the Katrina? Democratic Texas Representative Gene Green believes Congress never really addressed the essence of the country's energy woes.

Policy analysts contend political reality is why Congress refrained from tackling the most vexing energy problems. It's often tough to win support for big fixes. So policymakers sometimes take half a loaf. That's why the big energy bill approved last summer was svelt compared to the original more ambitious plan that failed two years ago.

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