Gasoline prices

Aggressive steps must be taken to cut reliance on Middle East oil

Something is very wrong when gasoline prices at the pump can be hiked -- an average of 20 cents a gallon in the past month -- purely on speculation.

Suppliers are concerned unrest in the oil-rich Middle East will constrict the flow, so they are hedging against higher costs in the future by charging more now.

This is grossly unfair to those affected most -- the average person needing to fill a gas tank to get back and forth to work.

We offer several suggestions for responding to this disturbing situation.

The state attorney general's office, led by George Jepsen of Ridgefield, and the state Department of Consumer Protection should look into the practice of speculative price hikes.

In the longer term, as we have all known for years, the country needs to reduce reliance on oil from the Middle East.

Alternative energies must be explored and encouraged.

Whether it's fuel cell development at FuelCell Energy in Danbury or photovoltaic design and installation through Ross Solar Group in Brookfield -- and other alternative energy initiatives large and small by other businesses in Greater Danbury -- attention must be paid to help the industry thrive.

A comprehensive energy bill, which was vetoed by then Gov. M. Jodi Rell last year, should be revamped and brought back to the Connecticut General Assembly for consideration.

And just as important as the big steps to be taken are the smaller efforts that individuals can make to reduce gasoline consumption.

Carpooling is one effective means of reducing the overall use of gasoline and should be considered, if possible, for work, children's activities or other group pursuits.

With planning, residents can consolidate trips, such as to stores, the post office or appointments for efficiency.

More people should use mass transit, such as the Housatonic Area Regional Transit bus line and Metro-North passenger rail service.

Efforts to extend the Metro-North Danbury line through Brookfield and up to New Milford should be ramped up.

Through individual awareness and actions, and through the diligence of industry and government, this region can -- and should -- make itself less susceptible to the vagaries of oil speculation.