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Our View: Gas efforts need bite

The U.S. House of Representatives' passage of legislation that aims to crack down on gasoline price-gouging may be the first step in the war against rising gas prices.

The U.S. House of Representatives' passage of legislation that aims to crack down on gasoline price-gouging may be the first step in the war against rising gas prices.

It's just a baby step, but still a first step nonetheless.

The proposal would penalize individuals or companies for taking "unfair advantage" or charging "unconscionably excessive" prices.

However, opponents say the wording is too vague, and we must agree.

Other details about the proposal, which next heads to the Senate:

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n The proposal only will go into effect if the president, who hails from oil country, declares an energy emergency.

n It would only go into effect for 30 days at a time.

n It may face a presidential veto.

n And the Senate won't take a look at it until at least next month.

The bill came from Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., who urged fellow House members to "vote to stand up for consumers ... who are being ripped off at the pump." Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, D-S.D., voted for the bill, which isn't a surprise -- all three of South Dakota's delegates say they are committed to helping relieve the pressures of high gas prices.

While we appreciate Stupak's bill and hope for its further passage in the Senate, we, like some of its opponents, feel it is weak. Its limitations -- just 30 days, and only during a president-declared emergency -- show that it lacks teeth.

Who, exactly, will define and determine "unconscionably excessive" prices? If all of the stations in a town are offering the same price, is it gouging?

We appreciate any and all gas-related inquiries and efforts by Congress, but fear that in an effort to do something -- anything -- the House has passed a measure that is more bark than bite.

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During a gas crunch that threatens South Dakota's tourism- and ag-based economy, we need more bite.

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