The Commerce Department reported this week that retail sales dipped 0.1 percent last month despite the government's infusion, thus far, of $92 billion worth of economic stimulus payments to U.S. households.
Analysts attribute most of the downturn to a 2.4 percent decline in auto sales. Detroit had its worst month in 16 years as motorists and automakers coped with record gasoline prices in July.
Higher fuel prices also contributed to an .08 percent increase in the Consumer Price Index. That means inflation increased by 5.6 percent over the past 12 months, marking the largest annual jump in more than 17 years.
Core inflation, which excludes the volatile food and energy sectors, rose a more modest 0.3 percent in July.
And crude oil prices are down about 30 percent from record highs posted in July, but America's energy issues are far from over. This week, a man normally associated with "Big Oil" explained why the answer to America's energy issues is blowin' in the wind…
Oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens proposed his multi-part plan for energy independence at an Iowa town hall meeting this week. The plan, part of an election year push to raise public awareness of energy issues is focused on three main principles…wind…natural gas…and solar power.
T. Boone Pickens: "You've got one of the greatest wind corridors in the country right here in the Midwest. I want this area to become the Saudi Arabia of wind.
We can convert 30% of our transportation fuel to natural gas and then offset that power generation with wind power."
Pickens use of wind power is an integral part of his long-term proposals. Stretching from Texas north through the Dakotas, Pickens "wind corridor" still faces considerable obstacles outside of turbine placement and construction.
T. Boone Pickens: "We've got to figure out a way to get these power lines to the east and west coasts and that's where we need Congress."
The legendary oil man told Iowa town hall attendees that his "Pickens Plan" has already been proposed in person to President Bush and congressional leaders.
T. Boone Pickens: "But those guys in Washington never get anything done. That is why I'm trying to get you guys signed on to my plan."
Pickens, a well-known oil executive, unveiled his energy plan in July amidst a $58 million advertising campaign.
(Pickens Ad here: "This is the largest transfer of wealth in the history of the world.")
Speaking with Market to Market after his town hall meeting, Pickens refused to endorse a Presidential candidate or their perspective energy plan.
T. Boone Pickens: "Whichever one chooses my plan would be good."
Pickens also ensured ethanol producers that the home-grown biofuel should play a role in future alternative energy.
T. Boone Pickens: "I'm for anything made in America and ethanol has done a good job of offsetting 1 million barrels of foreign oil. Whenever you can do that it's a good thing."
A recent Senate bill aimed to spur investment and $18 million in tax credits for wind, solar, and plug-in electric vehicles collapsed nine votes short of full floor debate. Pickens, who has pledged to spend $2 billion towards a massive wind energy farm in west Texas, added that wind energy will not work without tax credits.