What’s the best way the United States can become less dependent on oil?



  1. 0 Votes
    The tragic BP Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico has highlighted the costs of US dependence on oil, and gotten many people thinking about how to reduce consumption of fossil fuels.  Of course, the risk of oil spills is just one reason making this shift is a good idea.  There’s also the long list of pollutants that come from burning oil and other fossil fuels, and the impacts that emissions of carbon dioxide have on the climate.  Fortunately, there are several good ways the United States can begin moving towards an oil-free future.  Here are a few of the best ideas:
    Make our cars more efficient
    About two thirds of the oil consumed in the US today is used to power vehicles and other forms of transportation – so probably the single simplest way to reduce our dependence on oil is to increase the fuel economy of cars and trucks.  Currently, vehicles in the United States are much less efficient than in most other parts of the world.  Canada, Australia, China, Europe, and Japan all have significantly higher fuel economy standards than the US, meaning the average vehicle in one of these countries travels farther on a gallon of gasoline than an average car in the US.  Fortunately, the situation is already set to improve somewhat.  In 2009, the Obama administration announced that beginning in 2012, fuel economy standards for cars and trucks will improve by 5% each year through 2016, when the US vehicle fleet will achieve an average economy rating of 35.5 miles per gallon.  This is good start, but still leaves the US lagging behind other countries.  A bill introduced to the US Senate by Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont would build on this progress by raising fuel economy standards to 55 miles per gallon by the year 2030.  Each increment by which we improve the efficiency of US vehicles will reduce our country’s demand for oil, while saving consumers money at the gas pump.
    Provide alternatives to automobiles
    Improving the fuel efficiency of our vehicles is hugely important – but even better than driving an efficient car is not driving at all.  Providing alternatives to the personal automobile allows people to get out of their cars and cut back even more on the amount of oil they’re burning to get around.  Campaigns to make cities walker and biker-friendly lessens dependence on oil while often giving neighborhoods a nicer community feel.  The next best thing to walking or riding a bicycle is to take public transit like a bus or electric rail – so investing in public transportation is another effective way to cut down on oil consumption.  According to the American Public Transportation Association, a person with ready access to public transit drives on average 4,400 fewer miles each year than someone living far from accessible bus stops or rail lines.  Cities with good walking, biking, and public transit options consistently consume less oil and produce fewer carbon emissions than places where a car is required to get around.
    Switch to electric vehicles 
    Besides reducing the need for automobiles and increasing fuel efficiency standards for conventional cars, a third option that addresses oil consumption from vehicles is to build that don’t run on oil at all.  The most promising option for non-oil powered cars probably is probably the electric vehicle.  Electric cars are rapidly moving from a theoretical concept to a practical solution to oil dependency.  Electric cars are powered by a battery charged at a special re-charging station, and completely eliminate the need for gasoline.  Yet the power used to charge them has to come from somewhere – and the power plant used to generate the electricity may itself be a source of pollution.  When electricity is produced from renewable sources like wind or solar power, electric cars have a tiny or non-existent carbon footprint.  In most areas, however, our electricity still comes from burning fossil fuels – notably in dirty coal-fired power plants.  That’s why a national strategy to curb fossil fuels across the economy is so important.
    Put a price on carbon
    Oil spills are of course only one of many problems with relying on fossil fuels – and the biggest danger of all is global warming and destabilization of the planet’s climate.  Prominent environmentalists, including writer and activist Bill McKibben, are now calling on President Obama and the US Senate to respond to the oil spill by passing a comprehensive climate bill that puts a price on burning carbon.  Forcing polluters to pay for pollution while investing in clean energy and efficiency measures would make burning oil and other fossil fuels seem less attractive, while helping our economy make the transition to cleaner fuels.  At present there’s just one bill moving forward at the national level that would accomplish this goal: the American Power Act, introduced to the US Senate by Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Joseph Lieberman (I-CT).  Bill McKibben points out that this bill by itself wouldn’t curb the use of fossil fuels to the extend that’s really needed, and there is a lot of debate about just how good of a bill it really is.  But passing the American Power Act would be a step towards curbing carbon emissions at the national level.  There’s probably nothing we can do right now that’s more important to reducing US dependence on oil and other fossil fuels.
    Keep the oil in the ground  
    What the BP Oil Spill in the Gulf has shown is that opening new areas to oil exploration and drilling is no way to solve the problems with oil dependency.  Oil drilling in the US damages valuable natural ecosystems, and carries the threat of a massive disaster like that in the Gulf of Mexico.  Meanwhile, pulling more oil out of the ground simply means burning more of it in our cars and trucks and adding even more to global warming.  Since the Gulf spill, environmental organizations and political figures are calling with an increasingly unified voice for an end to offshore drilling and other forms of oil extraction.  The solution to an economy over-dependent on oil and other fossil fuels is not to drill for more oil in the ground, but to encourage policies that provide options for low-carbon living, and replace fossil fuels with cleaner, renewable energy sources.
    Make your voice heard!
    Shifting the US away from oil dependency will require strong national policy to increase the efficiency of our cars, provide alternatives to oil-powered transportation, and make polluters pay for burning carbon.  Now is the time to let your elected representatives know what you think about these and other oil-related issues.  To call or email your US senators, who will be considering climate and energy legislation this summer, look up your state’s senators and their contact information here.  To contact President Barack Obama, use the online White House Contact Form.  By calling or writing to these officials you can share your opinions where they matter most – whatever your views on oil dependence might be.
  2. 0 Votes

    The United States must turn to alternative energy sources and begin implimenting them in every sector. Hybrid cars and electric cars are helping us to reduce our dependency on oil. Many people see that these cars cost more and feel they cannot afford them or do not want to pay extra. However, in time the money saved on gas reduces the total cost of the vehicle. The government could give [more] tax incentatives to people to purchase hydrid and electric cars.

    Furthermore, people must be educated on why we should reduce our dependency on oil. The recent oil spill has presented an opportunity for such in school and for adults through seminars, television and radio broadcasts and the Internet.

  3. 0 Votes

    Oil is used in ways other than as fuel for our vehicles, and we should consider this in trying to lessen our dependence on it.  Oil is used in plastics and many other man-made synthetic products.  The link below is an interactive website where you can learn more about where oil turns up in our daily lives.  Oil is used in a remarkable number of things, from vitamins and cleaning products to make-up and fertilizers.  The second link below gives information on uses of oil and has suggestions for ways to “Kick the Habit.”

  4. 0 Votes

    There is a way to turn our energy crisis around and it is Hydrogen. No one is picking this up. You can run the trains, planes, buses and cars we have today on limitless, clean fuel. I am not pulling your leg.

    I urge you to check out http://www.hydrogenassociation.org/ and http://www.clean-air.org/

    I have read several books on the subject and two stand out:

    I cannot say enough good things about Roy McAlister of the American Hydrogen Association. He is one of the leading visionary/experts on hydrogen. He was one of the top scientists that helped NASA develop fuel cells for space flight. His book “The Coming Hydrogen Civilization” is a bible (I have read it three times) for where we should be headed. According to Roy In the virtual blink of an eye we could have every internal combustion engine on the planet running on hydrogen. The conversion is no more complicated than the conversion from gasoline to natural gas. Storage is an issue but that is being worked out. Instead of building new battery powered cars (where does the electricity come from???) (what is the effect of all these batteries on the environment???) convert the current fleet to hydrogen. Build the conversion equipment in Michigan. While they are busy doing that they can also set up and start production of fuel cell vehicles.

    Roy has a different call on how to store the energy produced by wind, tidal, solar, etc. Run the electricity through a fuel cell and convert it to hydrogen. Transport the hydrogen through existing pipe lines to where you need the power then run the hydrogen back through a fuel cell to produce the electricity. Saves a LOT on line loss.

    The negative buzz about hydrogen taking to much energy to produce is one of many myths that Roy bursts in the book. The technology is there – not in ten or twenty years but now. It just needs to be implemented! Michael Moore should interview Roy and get his story out.

    Also Jeremy Rifkin’s book “The Hydrogen Economy” is an excellent source of technology and sociology. Past civilizations have faced the same energy crisis – and they lost the battle. We don’t have to. In Jeremy’s book he speaks about the passing away of large central power plants favoring a more “democratic” form of power production. “Distributed-generation associations (DGAs)” would decentralize power production bringing unlimited power to every corner of the planet.

    If the government would devote a fraction of the money it squanders on Blood For Oil wars the technology could start being implemented over night.

    This is the most pressing subject I know of and it is getting no attention or it is getting false and/or negative spin.

    A positive note is that T. Boone Pickens is throwing his considerable financial weight behind this: http://www.pickensplan.com/theplan/

    My personal passion is improving the pitiful state of construction and saving vast amounts of energy through more energy efficient, sustainable construction.

  5. 0 Votes

    Drive less. 70% of US oil consumption is in the transportation sector, and the US burns 44% of all the gasoline in the world.

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