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Aviation leaders urge Congress to act on energy policy – now

They call for a special session of Congress, but many are skeptical the session will get off the ground.

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Contending that the nation is now in a "full-blown and deepening energy crisis which is causing irreparable harm," some leaders in the aviation industry are urging President Bush to call a special session of Congress next month.

The goal would be to debate energy alternatives and establish policies that would lead to a coherent national energy policy. The idea is to move away from a piecemeal attack on $100-plus--a-barrel oil by just attempting to rein in speculators, who are blamed for the high prices. Instead, the idea is to attack the underlying psychology, which is that there will not be enough oil in the world to address growing demand.

"Our problem is that our national confidence has been eroded by the perception that the most powerful country in the world ... lacks the political will to address the energy crisis," says Robert Crandall, former CEO of American Airlines. "A coherent, long-term national energy policy encompassing a full range of options would reverse the perception that America can no longer deal with her problems."

Other aviation analysts agree that the nation needs a comprehensive energy policy. But they argue that the aviation industry's problems are more complex than just high oil prices. The airline industry is by nature cyclical, they note, and its current economic troubles are typical of the downside of an economic cycle. The larger problem, as they see it, is that during good times of the economic cycle, the airlines didn't make enough money to weather the inevitable downtown. That has been compounded by the run-up in fuel prices.

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