Public Calls for Energy Transition Away from Oil

The public believes that we need to wean ourselves away from our reliance on oil, but worries that the government doesn’t share its goals.

Gas and oil both reached record highs this week, just in time for Memorial Day weekend travelers to hit the road. Gas clocked in at $3.83 a gallon yesterday, and oil hit $135.09 a barrel in trading Wednesday night.

There’s little sign that these prices are hitting their peaks, either. A Goldman Sachs analyst predicts that prices of “$150-$200 per barrel seems increasingly likely over the next six to 24 months,” and this week’s numbers seem to be proving him right.

The public agrees, too. A late January survey by found that 88 percent believe that the price of oil will be much or somewhat higher 10 years from now than it is today. Just 7 percent thought it would remain the same, and 6 percent thought it would be lower.

In the same survey, 76 percent said that our government should assume that the supply of oil is running out and that we must make a major effort to replace oil with other sources of energy. Just 23 percent believe enough new oil will be found to allow oil to remain a primary energy source in the future.

Unfortunately, the public is skeptical that the government shares its opinion. Almost three-fifths (57 percent) think our government assumes that enough new oil will be found in the future to allow continued reliance on oil as an energy source, while only 41 percent think that the government assumes oil is running out and that it is necessary to take action to replace it as an energy source.

In the short term, measures such as the Consumer-First Energy Act, which enhances the federal government’s powers to investigate and prosecute price gouging and market manipulation, can begin to address the high cost of oil for American consumers. But in the long term, the public is right. We cannot continue to rely on oil as our primary energy source. We need to get ourselves on a path to clean, and sustainable energy.

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Ruy Teixeira

Former Senior Fellow