On one hand, politicians in Washington are telling us that they are optimistic the economy will soon be recovering.

On the other hand, at every hint of economic recovery, OPEC's oil prices increase. It was high fuel prices which played a major role in triggering the current economic crisis.

In the past two weeks, gas prices have risen about 14 cents and it likely won't be long before we're paying $3 per gallon at the pumps.

Meanwhile, home heating fuel – already unaffordable to many struggling families – continues to rise in price.

What does Washington do about it? Propose punishment on fossil fuel producers in the form of higher taxes and more rigid environmental controls. A glaring example is President Obama's proposed Cap and Trade legislation.

The U.S. Environmental Protection defines Cap and Trade is an environmental policy tool that delivers results with a mandatory cap on emissions while providing sources flexibility in how they comply.

What flexibility?

Like it or not, such "clean" alternative energy sources as solar and wind are years away from prominence and haven't proven to be mass energy producers.

Hurt with Cap and Trade will be coal companies, American oil firms, utilities, and domestic natural gas producers – firms we need both for economic recovery and our own energy production. We're spanking ourselves while rewarding other countries.

Cap and Trade will do great harm not only to America's energy producers, but to the U.S. economy. This is obvious by the rapid ascent seen in OPEC's oil prices, which is reflected at our local gas pumps and in our heating oil deliveries.

Instead of punishing fossil fuel producers, they should receive assistance because they are the only hope of letting us survive our hostage ordeal with foreign oil.

It doesn't take a genius to realize that foreign oil is repressing our economy. Our Washington leadership, instead of paying heed to reality, likes to think that a miracle will occur and all pollution will vanish.

Only if America truly becomes independent of foreign fuel can such a miracle ever happen. And it won't happen if domestic production of fossil fuels keeps getting hit with unfair sanctions.

Meanwhile, the cold hard truth is gas prices will keep rising and Americans will keep freezing in their homes.

By Ron Gower

rgower@tnonline.com