Cheers and Jeers

Cheers: To Jacksonville Elementary School fifth-grader Scott Richter and South Medford High School senior Brendan Prendergast, the latest in a long line of champion spellers to emerge from Jackson County in recent years. Both took top honors at the Oregon State Spelling Contest this year.

Their secret? Reading. A lot. That's something we heartily approve of, for obvious reasons, and it gives us hope that the next generation of young people will include some who love the printed word as much as we do. Congratulations, guys.

Jeers: To the Democratic-controlled Congress, which on Tuesday passed a bill to allow offshore oil and gas drilling — but not really.

The bill is a political gesture, not a serious attempt to increase domestic energy production. It would allow oil and gas drilling, but only 50 miles or more off the coast. As the Republicans pointed out, most of the known reserves lie closer to shore than that. And President Bush has vowed to veto the bill anyway.

Supporting or opposing offshore drilling are both legitimate positions with good arguments to support them. What's not acceptable is to pass a bill that does little or nothing to increase domestic oil production and then claim you've struck a blow for energy independence.

Cheers: To the Oregon Transportation Commission, which listened to Oregonians frustrated with new identification requirements for Oregon drivers' licenses.

The new rules, which took effect July 1, were intended to crack down on illegal immigration by requiring drivers to prove their full legal name and citizenship in order to receive a license. In practice, however, longtime legal residents whose names had changed through marriage or divorce, the use of a nickname or adoption encountered problems if their name did not match the one on their birth certificate.

The commission responded to numerous complaints by revising the list of documents residents may use to establish their residency status. It's always refreshing when a government bureaucracy listens, hears and responds.

Jeers: To oil companies, who continue to rake in high prices at the pump despite last week's plunge in the price of crude to below $100 a barrel, down from the high of nearly $150.

When crude prices soar, as they did this spring and summer, the retail price of gasoline follows quickly. When the crude price drops, it seems to motorists that pump prices take much longer to settle back.

The oil companies will say other factors — supply disruptions from the latest hurricane, for instance — are to blame. But that's a bit hard to swallow given the enormous profits the industry has been raking in.

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