WASHINGTON The public must pressure Republicans in the White House and Congress to change directions in the country's energy policies, which have pushed oil and gas prices to record highs, a Democratic lawmaker said Saturday.
Sen. Debbie Stabenow said the rising price of oil, fostered by President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney's close ties to the oil industry, is no longer just a burden.
"Now it is a crisis for every American family," the Michigan senator said in the Democrats' weekly radio address. She called the current energy situation "a crisis that doesn't just affect us at the pump, but also raises the prices of groceries, increases our home heating bills and squeezes small businesses."
Oil rose above $126 a barrel for the first time Friday, and gasoline prices rose above an average $3.67 a gallon at the pump.
"Republicans want more drilling, more consumption and more tax giveaways for the big oil companies," she said. "Democrats say that those are exactly the policies that got us into this mess to begin with."
The Democrats propose:
• Ending billions of dollars in tax breaks for big oil firms.
• Forcing oil companies to invest some of their profits in clean and affordable alternative energy.
• Protecting people from price gougers and oil traders who manipulate the market.
• Temporarily stopping the diversion of oil to the national Strategic Petroleum Reserve, which is already 97 percent full.
• Standing up to the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and other oil-producing nations that are working together to keep oil prices high.
"This fight won't be easy," Stabenow said, urging the public to pressure the GOP. "The President and his oil buddies have gotten used to the spoils of plunder, and they won't give up without a fight."
Republican National Committee spokeswoman Amber Wilkerson said, "The Democrats clearly don't understand the economy and the devastating burden that their proposed tax increases would impose on families and businesses across America."