20060427 gasrebate gettyid57467383
US Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) takes questions from reporters during a press conference with fellow senators (from left) John Thune (R-SD), James Talent (R-MO) and Rick Santorum (R-PA), announcing the Gas Price Relief and Rebate Act of 2006 on April 27 in Washington, D.C. The act would include a $100 gas tax holiday rebate check, anti-price gouging protection, repeal tax incentives for oil companies while expanding tax incentives to promote the use of hybrid vehicles and improve fuel economy standards. - 


KAI RYSSDAL: There is an Exxon station on Capitol Hill. Great backdrop for gas-price related press conferences. The station's like a block from the Capitol Building, but word is a few of the grandstanding Senators actually drove over there. Press conferences are great. But can Congress really do anything about the price of gas? Marketplace's Hillary Wicai reports.

HILLARY WICAI: Today Senate Republicans announced legislation that includes a $100 gas-tax rebate to be paid for by drilling in Alaska's Wildlife Refuge. At a gas station near Capitol Hill, Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert tossed several ideas into the wind. He even sounded green.

SPEAKER DENNIS HASTERT:"And we need to look at all the alternative energy issues that we have out there that are plentiful. The sun, the wind, hydrogen, we can do it, but we need to start now."

He and other House Republicans then made a big show of leaving the press conference in hydrogen-powered vehicles. Yesterday, a different party, a different gas station, but similar sounding promises. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, a Democrat from Michigan, wants to give taxpayers a $500 rebate but pay for it by cutting the tax breaks for oil companies.

SEN. DEBBIE STABENOW:"We should instead put that money back in the pockets of the people paying the high gas prices."

Driver Miriam Decosta Willis says she isn't fooled by any promises of money in her pocket, gas in her tank or a chicken in every pot.

MIRIAM DECOSTA WILLIS:"That's like putting a Band-Aid on a cancer. That's just a feel good thing to get us through the November elections."

Is it all just about — dare we say — upcoming elections? Economist Adam Sieminski says if the government really wants to do something about gas prices, it'll do nothing. He says high prices themselves will do the work.

ADAM SIEMINSKI:"Consumers typically buy less of things that cost more and producers find ways to get more of it."

And give up my rebate?

In Washington, I'm Hillary Wicai for Marketplace.