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COLUMBIA, S.C. -- South Carolina state Sen. Dick Elliott's solution to the problem of high fuel prices is very simple: pass legislation ensuring they cannot be raised past a certain point, according to a USA Today report.
Elliott, a Democrat first elected in 1992, has proposed a bill that would cap the wholesale price of gas for one year.
"I don't like to interfere with the competitive free enterprise system, but in this case we don't believe the competitive free enterprise system is fully at work," said Elliott. "It's breaking families, it's breaking businesses, it's wreaking havoc with the economic system all over the state and all over the nation for that matter."
He plans to hold public hearings on the matter across the state over the next few weeks and will try to prompt the Senate to move forward during a special session later this month, said Elliott, who noted that the House might not be able to address the bill until January.
Opponents of Elliott’s bill have predicted an even worse situation than the one South Carolinians currently face.
"If he passes this legislation, he had better start buying bicycles for people in South Carolina," stated John Felmy, chief economist for the American Petroleum Institute.
Felmy added that the price of a gallon of gasoline would only be lowered 30 cents even if 100 percent of profits were taken away from the oil companies, and that world demand for oil is the main factor that drives the price of gasoline.
The only other state that has attempted to cap fuel prices this year is Hawaii, according to the report, but that bill did not progress far before the end of the legislative session.
South Carolina Republican state Sen. David Thomas is another skeptic. "How the state of South Carolina could enter into a free market system like that is beyond me," said Thomas.
However, Elliott has remained firm in his position. "If we're serious about curtailing the escalating price of gasoline, we ought to be 100 percent dead sure that it does pass," he stated.