The Issues: Gas Prices

CBS News continues a month-long series titled "What Does It Mean To You?" focused on where the presidential candidates stand on major issues and how a vote for one or the other candidate might affect average people's lives.

In this report, CBS News Correspondent Jim Axelrod looks at an issue of vital concern to millions of Americans: ever-soaring gasoline prices.



Pump prices have been sky-high for months, so it's not exactly news that Americans are unhappy with what they are paying for a gallon of gas these days.

Gasoline has gone up three cents in the past two weeks to a nationwide average of $1.93 per gallon -- 27 percent increase in the past year.

"There's no question about it, gasoline prices are high," says Clyde Mumma, a service station owner.

But what might surprise you, reports CBS News Correspondent Jim Axelrod, is the that the people who make a living selling gas -- independent service station owners like Mumma -- are not also not exactly pumped up about the price spike.

To those who think Mumma's service station has turned into a goldmine, he says, "They can have the keys if they want it!"

Since OPEC and Big Oil set the prices, Mumma says it's OPEC and Big Oil that make the profits -- not him.

"People think, they see $1.50 up there [that] I'm making $1.50. It doesn't work that way," he says.

In reality, Mumma earns five, maybe six cents per gallon regardless of the price. But no matter what the cost, Mumma's customers aren't happy and they don't unload on OPEC. They vent their frustrations at high prices to him.

"I'm the guy that they see when they come to fill up their gas, so guess who gets the mouthful," he says.

Griping about what it costs to fill your tank has become so common, it's almost become an American tradition. But during an election year, politicians are forced to actually address all those complaints.

Both candidates agree something needs to be done, they just don't agree on what, reports Axelrod.

When gas was at its very highest in June, Sen. John Kerry advocated using the strategic oil reserve.

President George W. Bush says that reserve is to be used only in the event of a national emergency.

Mr. Bush wants to drill in the Alaskan National Wildlife Reserve, and he's sent this plan to Congress, but he says, "They won't take action. Congress needs to pass the energy plan.

Clyde Mumma supports Mr. Bush's plan.

"I think Bush is right and that we do have to go and drill in Alaska," he says. "It's in our backyard. We can become self-dependent.

But candidate Kerry says absolutely not.

"There is no way possible for our nation to drill its way out of this predicament," he says.

Kerry has voted against Alaskan drilling. His opposition is not only environmental, he says there's not enough oil there to solve anything. Instead, Kerry wants to look for alternative fuel sources and give tax credits to those buying fuel hybrid vehicles.

All Clyde Mumma knows for sure is that someone's got to do something, because he's also pretty sure we haven't seen the last of the price hikes.
  • Lauren Johnston

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