Looking For New Ideas On Gas Prices? Avoid The Senate

While gas hits $4 a gallon at gas pumps across the country, senators from both parties are reverting to talking points that haven't changed in years.

It was clearly gas price rhetoric day in the Senate, and Republicans took the first shot, proposing drilling in Alaska, building more refineries, drilling off the coasts and turning coal to liquid fuel.

"We have a bill that's all production," said Sen. Pete V. Domenici (R-N.M.), who engineered $14 billion in tax breaks for energy companies the last time Congress passed a major energy bill in 2005. These were all well worn ideas that have fallen short in previous energy debates.

Democrats quickly fired back, and to no one's surprise, they attacked OPEC, "greedy oil traders" and the amorphous bogeyman known as "Big Oil."

The Democratic energy plan revolves around punishing everyone in the oil industry by imposing a windfall profits tax, rolling back Domenici's tax breaks, investigating price gouging at the pump and establishing new market limits on oil futures speculation. These proposals also had a Back to the Future feel, since they have been discussed during other oil price spikes.

All of it adds up to a recipe for more gridlock in the Senate, yet the rhetoric will continue well into the summer driving season.

"With this bill, Democrats are protecting consumers," Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said. "Instead of helping Big Oil make more money at the expense of average Americans, we are forcing oil companies to change their ways."

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) warned that "the Democratic plan will go nowhere."

Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont, offered this sober assessment of the crisis: "There is not one single cause and there is not one simple solution."

And there probably won't be one easy vote on any of the proposals in the Senate before Memorial Day weekend.