President Bush proposed a 20 percent decrease in gasoline consumption just days ago in his State of the Union address. Yet instead of considering ways to achieve the decrease, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee yesterday heard testimony on developing oil and gas resources in the Gulf of Mexico.
The 109th Congress already opened an additional 8.3 million acres of the outer continental shelf in the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act at the end of last year. The legislation sets aside 12.5 percent of production revenues for the stateside Land and Water Conservation Fund—a move which should be lauded. Yet this environmental funding comes at the near-certain endangerment of a fragile ecosystem that would only be exacerbated with further opening of the OCS.
Offshore drilling is a hollow solution. It spills an average of 400 gallons of oil and gas every day. And additional drilling in the Gulf of Mexico would provide only four months of oil at the current rate of American consumption, and this oil would take seven years to extract.
The Center for American Progress has offered a three-step plan to boost the economy, reduce oil consumption, and protect the environment:
- Provide farmers the financial tools and expertise to shift towards the production and processing of energy crops.
- Transform the transportation sector by mandating that all passenger vehicles run on high blends of biofuels and gasoline — or flex fuels — within a decade and expand tax incentives for gas stations that install biofuel pumps.
- Recognize the threat of global warming by enacting a national carbon cap and trade mechanism that allows farmers and drivers to benefit from the production and use of biofuels that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Americans overwhelmingly support initiatives like these: 86 percent want the government to raise fuel efficiency standards, and 90 percent think the government should do more to support renewable fuels. This new Congress ought to be focused on creating long-term, sustainable solutions to America’s dependency on foreign oil, not reusing the same empty promises and high costs of offshore drilling.