With winter coming on, Marylanders, along with most folks in the Northeast, can expect to pay a good deal more to keep their houses warm. But while temperatures outside are dropping, the political temperature in Congress and state legislatures is rising from Bangor to Brownsville.
The immediate reason is the Persian Gulf crisis. In the wake of soaring oil prices, lawmakers from the oil-producing states like Texas are demanding tax incentives to stimulate drilling and seeking fees on imported oil. Such measures would be a big bonus for oil-producing states. By contrast, the Northeast and Midwest, which rely heavily on imported petroleum, would take it on the chin.
On top of that, the debate over energy policy is being waged in the context of a bitter regional battle over the S&L bailout. The 18 states of the Northeast-Midwest region, for example, are responsible for only $1.3 billion of the $29 billion loss that resulted when state-chartered thrifts went under. But taxpayers in those states must pay the same amount as those in Texas, where insolvent thrifts accounted for $21 billion of the $29 billion -- largely because Texas simply dropped the regulatory reins.