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So I’ve been reading a lot lately about the pain of independent gas stations and how they’re struggling with falling fuel prices.  It seems they haven’t been buying gas often enough to mark down their prices as quickly as their chain competitors.

Funny, but I don’t recall independent gas stations raising their prices more slowly than their chain counterparts. In fact, I remember them following rising prices lockstep.

Seems to me, if independents were buying gas as often then as they are now (i.e,, not as often as their bigger rivals) they would have been stuck with lower-priced gas. Thus, they could have raised their prices more slowly and undercut the competition, albeit at the expense of higher profits.

If you recall that happening, let me know. I could be wrong, as most mom-and-pop gas stations in York County, PA are gone — I can think of only two).

It’s easy to work up sympathy, but the effort shouldn’t cloud logic. If they were smart, independent-station owners have some extra cash left over from the days of skyrocketing prices (credit-card fees notwithstanding).

Or, like Wall Street titans, they thought “up” was the only direction prices could go.

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Republicans normally embrace calls for personal responsibility. But that doesn’t seem to be happening in the debate over gas prices and what to do about them. That’s the irony in the recent mockery of Barack Obama’s mention of properly inflating tires.

Set aside all the studies showing savings from adequate inflation versus gains from domestic drilling. It’s also a moral issue, the kind Republicans would embrace in most other arenas. Why shouldn’t people be encouraged to take charge of their own lives and curb energy use wherever they can? The market may set an outrageous price for a gallon of gas. But we don’t have to sit back, play the victim and demand government action.

We can use fewer gallons. Or, at least when it comes to political debate, we can just move on to the next brouhaha. But not before I share with you the lead on this real-life press release (written by someone who clearly deserves a raise):

BETHESDA, Md., Aug. 7 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — No matter where the presidential candidates are on the campaign trail, the issue of skyrocketing gas prices is always a top concern. The Car Care Council applauds both candidates who have recently discussed vehicle maintenance as a way to save energy, citing proper tire inflation and regular tune-ups. In fact, according to the survey by the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association (AAIA), 75 percent of drivers said they are better maintaining their vehicles because of rising gas prices.

Here’s my prediction on domestic drilling: Republicans will equate support for the idea with patriotism. Any deviation from the line (such as that coming from Barack Obama) will be portrayed as unpatriotic, thereby sparing us from any sort of rational debate.

The sexual overtones probably don’t hurt either. What true American man isn’t in favor of drilling! Here! Now! So not only is it a test of patriotism. It’s also a test of virility, what every great presidential campaign should be about!

At any rate, you can already see this line of attack coming together if you pay attention to the talking heads. I also noticed this comment from a woman quoted in the Harrisburg Patriot-News:

“I’m a red-blooded American,” Newton said. “I say drill away.”

Just wait. Someone will start selling American-flag lapel pins shaped like oil derricks with little gushers spewing out the top. Here’s the 14-karat gold version:

I don’t think Americans would be able to tolerate — let alone organize — this kind of roadway chaos, no matter how strongly they feel about fuel prices:

I’ve solved the energy crisis, at least the political one. Republicans want more drilling and refineries and Dems want more conservation and cars with better fuel efficiency. Why not have both?

If cars and SUVs and pickups really do end up traveling more miles per gallon, we won’t need more refineries or more drilling — but at least oil companies will have the option. Everyone gets what they want and gas can fall back to $1.30/gallon (I remember one colleague complaining when it hit that mark nine short years ago),

But, of course, Washington doesn’t work that way, at least for the moment. It’s more fun to yell and scream and block the other side from getting what it wants than it is taking a risk and figuring out how to satisfy everyone. And it is a risk.

But some country singer appearing on Glenn Beck’s show had a good metaphor for why we need more domestic drilling — he compared it to surgery (and no, I don’t think this particular singer had much background in energy policy, but so what?). Sure it might hurt, but you gotta do it.

The analogy worked for me, and then I figured it was worth approaching conservation and fuel efficiency in a similar vein. That’s like the special diet you have to go on after, say, a gastric bypass operation. In many cases, surgery alone won’t cure you. It just postpones the agony.

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