A new report finds that comprehensive climate and clean energy legislation is needed to protect Americans from oil shock. America’s exposure to oil spikes acts as a crippling do-nothing energy tax. In a white paper prepared for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), David Gardiner and Associates explore the vulnerability of the United States to price spikes in the oil market, such as the one in 2008 that drove the average cost of gasoline above four dollars, if it happened now, in the midst of a recession. The report finds that Mississippi, Montana, Louisiana, and Oklahoma residents are most vulnerable to a new price shock, as about 10 percent of the average driver’s income would be spent on gasoline:
If prices spiked again, Connecticut and New York drivers’ spending on gasoline would go up moderately, to around 4.3 percent; Mississippi drivers, on the other hand, could see their spending on gasoline skyrocket to more than 11 percent.
Unfortunately for their citizens, these most vulnerable states are largely represented by senators with deep ties to the oil industry who dismiss the threat of global warming: Republicans Jim Inhofe and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, Republicans Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker of Mississippi, and Democrat Mary Landrieu and Republican David Vitter of Louisiana. Even the Democratic senators of Montana, Max Baucus and Jon Tester, have merely indicated openness to capping our dependence on oil and confronting the climate threat.
A bright spot comes for the residents of the fifth most vulnerable state, South Carolina, where Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is working on comprehensive climate legislation with Sen. John Kerry (D-MA). Graham’s work in building the green economy is earning praise from the Christian Coalition and local veterans, both of whom recognize the dangers of oil addiction to our nation.
“America’s dependence on oil is problematic in several ways,” the authors write:
— The United States has less than 2 percent of the world’s oil supplies but is responsible for about a quarter of the world’s oil consumption. We currently import almost two-thirds of our crude oil supply from foreign countries, and more and more of the world’s future supply will come from regions that are either politically unstable or unfriendly to U.S. interests.
— Our dependence on unstable oil supplies threatens our national economy, particularly since about 96 percent of our transportation system is reliant on oil.
— Oil consumption is a leading contributor to the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that cause global warming. In the United States, the oil-based transportation system is responsible for roughly one-third of our global warming pollution.
To respond to these combined threats from oil vulnerability, the report concludes that Congress must:
— Pass comprehensive climate and energy legislation that limits carbon dioxide emissions, helps us break our oil addiction, and invests in creating millions of clean energy jobs here in the United States.
— Fundamentally reform federal transportation policy to support smart, public transportation-oriented development; assist states and regions in saving oil; and provide ample funding for energy-efficient transportation alternatives including rail and bus lines, bike paths, sidewalks, and other alternatives to driving.