March 6, 2006
Curing the Addiction to Oil
Kingston & Eliot Engel
As President Bush said during his State of the Union address:
America is dangerously addicted to oil.
nearly 21 million barrels of oil per day, everyday, and our appetite
is increasing. Today, the American economy demands over 25 percent
of global oil production while our known oil reserves make up
only 3 percent of global supply.
Even as our
thirst for more oil increases, China, India and the developing
world are demanding a greater share of the pie. China alone recently
attempted to acquire the American oil giant Unocal and has signed
contracts worth billions of dollars with Iran for oil and natural
completely dependent on a single, finite, and pollution-causing
fuel might only be an economic or environmental problem if it
were not for the fact that we must import over 60 percent of our
oil (over 12 million barrels per day) and much of that from nations
that are unstable, unfriendly or outright hostile. Whether it’s
the belligerent ranting of Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, the
kidnappings in Nigeria’s oil fields, the rampant corruption
in Russia, the war in Iraq or the nuclear stand-off with Iran,
when it comes to oil, America has few good options.
to foreign oil limits our actions on the global stage and our
choices here at home, it leaves us vulnerable to acts of God and
acts of man, and with over 80 percent of known global reserves
in the Middle East, or belonging to predominantly Muslim nations,
oil is intertwined with terrorism and fuels the radical Islamist
movement. Dependency on foreign oil is one of the central national
security problems we will face in this century.
oil picture is not much brighter. Peak oil production in this
country came and went in the 1990s. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita
devastated the Gulf Coast, shutting down oil platforms, pipelines,
ports and refineries accounting for nearly one-quarter of our
domestic supply and much of our capacity for distributing imports.
Significant portions of this area have still not recovered and
all of it remains vulnerable to future storms.
of political disagreement have blocked drilling in Alaska and
in the deep sea -- all but halting domestic exploration. Conservation
efforts, which must be stepped-up, are fighting a losing battle
to the armies of mini-vans and SUV’s that American families
demand. The transportation sector accounts for over two-thirds
of our oil consumption. Cars and trucks which account for most
of this remain 98 percent dependent on oil for fuel.
news is that while we cannot drill or carpool our way out of oil
dependency, there is an answer that is good for the American economy,
good for our environment and good for our national security –
fuel choice. By rapidly adopting vehicle technologies available
today, such as flexible fuel, electric hybrid, and plug-in cars,
and rapidly expanding the use and availability of fuels made from
abundant or renewable resources, such as ethanol made from corn,
electricity (only 2 percent is still made from oil), and clean
diesels made from coal, agricultural products or even garbage,
America could begin to wean itself from millions of barrels of
oil per day within a decade.
news is that all of this technology is already in our grasp or
soon will be – the challenge is one of investment more than
invention. Cars like the Ford Taurus and the Dodge Caravan are
already capable of using a flexible fuel blend of up to 85 percent
Ethanol. There are now dozens of electric hybrid vehicles with
a choice in nearly every vehicle class. Combination flexible fuel
and electric hybrids, including plug-in hybrids, hold the promise
of driving hundreds of miles on a gallon of gas and “refueling”
at home with the investment in a family extension cord!
should support the President’s call to continue research
and development of these new technologies. But Congress and the
President should not stop there.
Together, we should adopt a bold plan to reduce oil consumption
by 2.5 million barrels per day within a decade – more than
we currently import from the Persian Gulf – and rapidly
expand the fuel and vehicle choices of the American consumer.
If at the end of a decade every new car in America had the option
of using at least one fuel in addition to gasoline our economy
would be stronger, our environment cleaner, our country safer
and our addiction broken. Oil would continue to fuel our economy
but we would have choices and with choices comes security.
before us is clear, continue to send $250 billion per year overseas
and hope that money does not find its way to our enemies, or “on-shore”
our energy future by buying our next gallon of fuel from an American
farmer, refined at a clean American refinery, and put into an
American-built fuel choice car.
is not so much about what we drive as it is about what we put
in what we drive and the fuel choices we make.
authors are Congressmen Jack Kingston (R-GA) and Eliot Engel (D-NY)
who have cosponsored H.R. 4409, the bipartisan Fuel Choices for
American Security Act.
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