Brothers John and Ken Salazar of Colorado claim there's no split between them on how to reform immigration policy. The fifth generation Colorado Hispanics, both of whom were elected to Congress two years ago, favor stronger border security and a guest-worker program. But Congressman John Salazar was one of 36 democrats who broke ranks and voted for a tough Republican-backed House bill that would make being in the country illegally a felony. His younger brother, Senator Ken Salazar, backs a Senate plan that would give law-abiding illegal immigrants a chance to earn U.S. citizenship. Immigration reform, though politically charged, may not be the highest priority for Congress. A more pressing issue centers on rising fuel prices. And going into a midterm election, lawmakers are under the gun to relieve America's pain at the pump.
The U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed legislation this week that would fine oil companies and gas station owners for price gouging. As the price of a barrel of oil flirts with the 75 dollar mark, the measure would punish oil refiners up to 150 million dollars for any violations. Distributors would not escape scrutiny and could be hit for 2 million dollars, while retailers could pay three times their ill-gotten gains and end up with a stay in jail.
Meanwhile, Democratic Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa and Republican Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana are calling on car makers to build more flex fuel vehicles, which can burn a blend of up to 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline.
And Attorney's General from 10 states, the bulk of which are in the population heavy northeastern corridor, are planning to sue the Bush administration over S-U-V and pickup truck mileage. A petition filed by the various states contends the National Transportation Safety Board failed to take into account the impact of lower miles-per- gallon on climate change. The average m-p-g for this vehicle class is set to increase to 24 by 2011.
Agricultural processors are continuing the search for alternative energy sources to both reduce fuel prices and increase profits. Grain processing powerhouses Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland are moving forward with expansion of their ethanol plants.
And the production of ethanol from anything that can be fermented is not lost on the nation's sugar producers. Always looking for ways to bolster the bottom line, sugarcane growers are thinking about expansion into ethanol production. But with sugar prices at 20 year highs, many say their crop is more valuable as food rather than fuel.