Soaring Gas Prices Spark New Solutions

With gasoline prices soaring everyone -- from lawmakers to auto companies --is looking for ways to alleviate the pain at the pump.

As CBS News correspondent Vince Gonzales reports, some states are considering eliminating gasoline taxes that are shockingly high in some areas. While Wyoming has the lowest state tax in the continental United States, at .14 cents-a-gallon, New York drivers pay nearly .50 cents a gallon in taxes. And, that's not counting the across the board .18 cent-a-gallon federal tax, Gonzales says.

"I understand taxation, but I think it should be lower than that amount. That just seems astronomical to me," Suzanne Miller, a California motorist told CBS News.

Some politicians, including South Carolina's Governor, believe the solution is to lower or eliminate the gas taxes that most motorists don't even know they pay.

"We think you'd have a real bottom line benefit to a lot of working families who have been struggling with the price of gas," Governor Mark Sanford said.

Other motorists are taking matters into their own hands with a unique way to run their cars that costs practically nothing, as CBS News correspondent Melinda Murphy reports.

Dave Kandell, for example, runs his car on vegetable grease. As Murphy notes, instead of heading for the gas station, Kandell makes the round of restaurants, picking up used fryer grease he gets for free.

He's not alone. Wally Little owns a service station called Wally's Super Service, and has converted hundreds of vehicles to guzzle grease instead of gas.


"We've had kids in their 20s and people in their 80s come in; doctors, lawyers, restaurant owners, construction workers," he says.

Only cars with diesel engines can be converted to switch between diesel fuel and veggie oil. The diesel oil warms the veggetable oil.

But some California and Florida motorists may not have to resort to such measures. General Motors Corp. says it will cap gas prices at $1.99 per gallon for customers in California and Florida who buy certain big vehicles by July 5.

The offer announced Tuesday is good for 2006- and 2007-model cars and sport utility vehicles. In California, eligible vehicles are the Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban SUVs and Impala and Monte Carlo sedans, the GMC Yukon and Yukon XL SUVs, the Hummer H2 and H3 SUVs, the Cadillac SRX SUV, and the Pontiac Grand Prix and Buick LaCrosse sedans. In Florida, eligible vehicles are the Impala, Monte Carlo, Grand Prix and LaCrosse cars.

To take part, customers must buy or lease an eligible vehicle between May 25 and July 5 and enroll in the OnStar vehicle diagnostic service, which automatically runs checks on the vehicle and sends e-mail notices to owners each month. The diagnostic service is free for the first year; after that, it is part of a package that costs $16.95 per month.

Each month for one year, GM will give drivers a credit on a prepaid card based on their estimated fuel usage. Fuel usage will be calculated by the miles they drive, as recorded by OnStar, and the vehicle's fuel economy rating.

GM will credit drivers the difference between the average price per gallon in their state and the $1.99 cap. The credits can be used through December 2007. Consumers will not get any credits if gas prices fall below $1.99.

Customers can go to the company Web site, http://fuelprotection.com, starting Thursday to calculate their potential savings.

GM spokeswoman Deborah Silverman said GM picked California and Florida in part because the company wants to increase sales in those states. California is a big market for SUVs, Silverman said, while mid-size sedans are top sellers in Florida. California also has some of the highest gas prices in the nation, she said.

Silverman said GM will see how successful the program is before deciding whether to expand it to other states.

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