WASHINGTON - September 9 - As the fallout from Hurricane Katrina ratchets up what were already rapidly-rising oil prices, the National Association of State Public Interest Research Groups (PIRGs) called on local and state officials across the country to fill the void left by the appalling lack of federal action to address America’s over-dependence on oil.
The State PIRGs have produced a study, Making Sense of America's Oil Needs: A Sustainable, State-Based Response to Dwindling Oil Supplies, to assist state officials as they seek to protect their citizens and economies during the current oil crisis and to reduce their dependence on petroleum.
“Just like what has happened in the response to Hurricane Katrina, citizens and state and local governments are finding themselves compensating for Washington D.C.’s failure to act. When it comes to reducing our oil dependence, many state officials are asking the federal government to lead or get out of the way,” said Rob Sargent, Senior Energy Policy Analyst for the State PIRGs.
Post-Katrina gasoline prices have struck an already raw nerve with the public. Now, there is growing criticism of federal officials for failing to take even the most basic steps over the years to reduce the nation’s oil dependence. The most obvious failure is refusing to significantly raise the national fuel economy standard to makes cars go farther on a gallon of gasoline.
Even before Hurricane Katrina temporarily wiped out a portion of America’s oil and gas infrastructure, rising oil prices were already pinching the American economy. Over the last few years, booming demand for oil, coupled with dwindling supplies, sent prices skyrocketing. If many oil industry analysts are correct, prices will not come back down any time soon. With crude oil projected to remain above $60/barrel through the end of next year, it appears that those declaring the end of the era of “cheap oil” could well be right.
To address this ongoing crisis, state governments will play a critical role in filling this leadership vacuum left by those in Washington, D.C. By recognizing the oil crisis for what it is and taking appropriate actions to reduce our over-reliance on petroleum, states can bolster their long-term economic and energy security.
States should immediately begin to design and implement plans to reduce gasoline demand in the short run and to help all consumers affected by the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. States can rely on conservation and efficiency programs to soften the price shock this fall and winter. Immediate steps that states can take include:
- Promoting carpooling and more efficient driving
- Devoting additional resources to rideshare matching programs
- Improving access to existing public transportation systems and other programs likely to see increased demand as gas prices rise; and
- Investigating whether oil companies or their affiliates are receiving windfall profits from high oil and gasoline prices.
For the medium term, states should begin by:
- Providing incentives for the purchase of more fuel-efficient vehicles
- Encouraging the spread of advanced-technology vehicles (such as hybrid-electric cars
- Setting global warming emission standards for cars (which would likely also reduce fuel consumption)
- Slowing the growth of sprawling development patterns that drive increased vehicle travel
- Promoting the use of non-petroleum biofuels; and
· Increasing support for expanded public transit.
At the same time, state officials will need to begin putting policies in place that will yield benefits in the longer term. Those include:
- Acting to reshape communities to be less dependent upon the automobile
- Encouraging next generation advanced technology vehicles (e.g. those that operate primarily on electricity or renewably generated hydrogen); and
- Developing their rail infrastructure to shift intercity trips and freight movement away from oil-intensive modes such as driving and air travel.
“Despite increasingly clear evidence that dwindling oil supplies will harm our economy, elected officials in Washington, D.C. are unwilling to put us on the right track,” stated Sargent. “Thankfully, many of our state officials are have shown a willingness to tackle these issues. Hopefully, as the states lead, the federal government will follow.”
The full report can be found at www.newenergyfuture.com/reports.