Gasoline prices have settled down a bit. For most of the country they are below $2 a gallon, although that is substantially higher than a year ago.
It all started in 1973. The Arabs embargoed oil shipments to the U.S. because of our support for Israel during an Arab-Israeli war. Gasoline prices shot up, and long lines appeared at filling stations across the nation.
And we did nothing.
It happened again in 1978. Prices rose dramatically. Supplies were short and lines again were long.
And, once more, we did nothing.
OK, the government had issued the corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standard mandating a fleet average of 27.5 mpg.
Now we are just getting over some modest inconvenience. This time, it was only higher prices.
And we are doing nothing.
It has been 30 years since the 1973 embargo. It has been almost that long since CAFE.
Nothing has been done. Our leaders put their heads in the sand and pretend there isn't any problem.
The auto companies have been fighting any change for years. They don't want to see CAFE change even a tenth of a gallon.
The politicians talk and talk, but they aren't even going to think about raising the tax on gasoline or diesel fuel. That would be political suicide, they believe.
The administration-any administration in the past 25 years-hasn't had the political courage to handle this hot potato.
And the country continues to flounder without any sort of energy policy.
Plenty of issues will be discussed during the current election campaign, but you can bet that creating a meaningful energy policy isn't going to be one of them.
Sure, they'll all talk about our dependence on foreign oil. They'll talk about how important it is to encourage alternate-fuel automobiles-as if we can switch to 17 million hybrids overnight. As if we would ever want to switch.
No one person is going to solve this massive problem. It's going to take a thoughtful coalition of automotive manufacturers, members of Congress and people from the executive branch.
And if they work 24 hours a day, it will take months, at a minimum.
But it's time we get to work. As a nation, this is more than a quarter of a century overdue.
It's time to acknowledge the problem and get to work.
Mr. Crain is chairman of Crain Communications Inc., parent company of Tire Business, and publisher and editor-in-chief of Automotive News, where this column first appeared.