Gas prices out of control? Seven ways lawmakers could help – or hurt.

Gas prices are approaching $4 a gallon and oil prices are above $100 a barrel, leading politicians in Washington and statehouses to propose a flurry of legislation. Some proposals strive to quell voter angst while others might balance budgets by raising gas prices.

All of the above – and using less oil

Calling for a "comprehensive, all-of-the-above strategy for American energy," Senator Barasso says oil, natural gas, coal, and nuclear are all needed – not just renewable sources.

But economists say the US needs energy technologies that replace oil – like battery-powered plug-in vehicles – to assuage pain-at-the-pump.

"It doesn't matter where we get our oil from," says Severin Borenstein, codirector of the Energy Institute at the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley. "Oil is priced on the world market, so it's pretty much irrelevant where we get it. What matters is how much oil we use in relation to world oil supplies."

Despite all the furor, economists say there is little the US can do in the short run to bring down gasoline prices. In the long run, the only way to minimize financial damage to the country from high oil prices – which are set at a global rather than national level – is to reduce dependence on oil.

"If we bought all our oil from Canada, that still would not change the equilibrium price of oil," Dr. Borenstein says. "We should avoid the fantasy of thinking that by choosing a different seller, we are somehow offsetting the impact of Middle East production. To fix the problem, we just need to use less oil."

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