Gas prices already are having a jolting impact on household budgets. And all predictions say the prices are going to keep rising, probably to $4.25 a gallon by late April, and maybe even $5 by Memorial Day.

Problems in the Middle East are listed as the main reason.

Are our government officials doing everything they can to help the American consumer?

First of all, in stressing the bad impact the rising gas prices are having, it's costing people more money to go to their jobs, especially if they have long commutes.

When gas prices rise, heating oil prices also scale upward. Anyone who heats with heating oil can attest to the strain placed on families trying to keeping warm, even during a mile winter.

We've heard of heating oil prices being $4 per gallon in some areas.

What could be done?

Is there monitoring by the government to verify that big gasoline firms aren't gouging the public? If gouging is found to be occurring, can anything be done to stop it?

Also, the president managed to push through legislation that penalizes fossil fuel companies and forces utilities to switch from coal, which our country has in abundance. Of course we have to be concerned with pollution, but we also have to use common sense for survival. It's great for multi-millionaire politicians to not worry about the higher costs of fuel, but the average working man is finding it harder to survive; to make ends meet.

Working families who not only have to worry how they will afford to drive their cars to their jobs, heat their homes, and still have enough money for food. But they also have to worry whether their employers can afford the higher fuel costs and remain in business.

Fuel prices are at a crisis state. But you wouldn't know it by the political rhetoric that's occurring.

Anti-coal policies are wrong right now. An easing of some of the already imposed regulations could go a long way into helping this country become a little less dependent on foreign oil. Utilities should be allowed to continue utilizing coal.

But the government especially needs to get a grip on checking into why fuel prices are rising so abruptly.

The American consumer is virtually helpless. There is absolutely no protection offered by the so-called leaders running this country.

By RON GOWER

rgower@tnonline.com [1]