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Gasoline-tax reprieve: an idea running on empty

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Sen. Barack Obama, Senator Clinton's rival for the Democratic nomination, did reject the idea. On this issue, he's "the only one that looks like a grown-up," comments Mr. Bixby.

President Bush also disapproved. Of course, he's not running for office.

Here's why critics say the gasoline-tax holiday plan is a bad idea:

•It wouldn't save the average consumer much money. If a driver uses 10 gallons a week, he or she would save about $26 during the three months – enough to buy seven or eight milkshakes. A driver with a long commute to work would, potentially, save more. So would the truck drivers who were circling the Capitol in a horn-blaring caravan last week, angered by the 24.4 cents per gallon tax on diesel fuel.

The problem, says Mr. Toter, is that the cheaper fuel would encourage Americans to drive more – say an extra trip to the beach. The end result – after increased summer demand stretches American refining capacity to the limit – would be even higher prices.

It wouldn't "do anything" for the consumer, Toter concludes. It would just boost the already record profits of refiners and oil companies.

An econometic analysis by Jeff Perloff, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley, is not so harsh. Drivers might save 9 to 12 cents a gallon despite the rising demand, he reckons.

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