Senator Menendez: The Oil Conservation Revolution

By Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ)

As Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, I see a lot of fanfare applauding increased oil production in the U.S. and the increase is truly remarkable. We are producing nearly 2 million more barrels of oil a day than government (EIA) experts had predicted ten years ago. But here’s what is truly astounding: We are consuming over 5 million barrels less in oil a day than had been predicted in 2003. So, there is no question we are making dramatic strides in the oil sector, but we are doing twice as well on the conservation side of the ledger than we are in production.

Oil conservation lacks the sizzle that energy production enjoys. After all, you don’t see people striking it rich by taking a train to work, by driving an electric car, or converting their business’ fleet to run on natural gas. What’s worse, not only does it lack sizzle, some public figures say oil conservation isn’t even a serious approach to energy policy. Vice President Cheney famously said conservation is a “sign of personal virtue, but … not a sufficient basis for a sound, comprehensive energy policy.”

But as a nation, in order to continue to improve our energy security, insulate our economy from high oil prices, and address climate change, we will continue to accomplish a lot more by using less oil than by producing more oil. It’s less exciting than an oil geyser, but the opportunity is simply much bigger. Increasing oil production in the U.S. helps our energy security and our economy, but increasing domestic production is often described as the healer of all wounds. Unfortunately it is not.

If it were, oil prices would not be so stubbornly high. Oil is traded in a worldwide market, so our increased production has been drowned out by increased demand elsewhere. But thanks to increased fuel economy standards, investment in public transportation, and a burgeoning market in alternative fuel vehicles, Americans do not need nearly as much oil to achieve mobility as once predicted. And we have a lot more improvement to do. After all, we use twice as much oil per capita as the United Kingdom and Germany and a third more than Australia.

Despite our exceptional prowess in drilling for oil, we simply cannot drill our way out of our problems. To address climate change, drive down prices, and truly end the world’s dependence on energy from unstable parts of the world, we need to use a lot less oil. The good news is that we have gotten off to a great start.

11 Responses to Senator Menendez: The Oil Conservation Revolution

  1. M Tucker says:

    “insulate our economy from high oil prices”

    Menendez, as soon as you said that I realized that everything else you are saying is suspect. You know very well how oil prices are determined! Stop with the smoke and mirrors political BS! Enough! If you are going to post on a progressive web site you had better stop talking down to us. We are better than that! We already know how oil prices are set. Stop it! You sound like a fool! You sound like Romney! Enough! I am tired of it. Now I can’t trust the rest of this post.

  2. Joe Romm says:

    Uhh, this is your most ridiculous comment. I’ve said many time a key point of oil efficiency and conservation is to “insulate our economy from high oil prices.” Indeed, reducing oil/GDP is the only way to do so.

  3. M Tucker says:

    “To address climate change, drive down prices, and truly end the world’s dependence on energy from unstable parts of the world, we need to use a lot less oil.”

    You need to explain this. How does reduced consumption in the US “end the world’s dependence” on oil? You actually said “dependence on energy.” Yeah, we need to get off energy altogether! Energy is bad. Did you think about this before you posted it?

    “After all, we use twice as much oil per capita as the United Kingdom and Germany and a third more than Australia.”

    Yeah, but that is not where the growth in demand is now and is expected to be for the future. You didn’t mention any of those countries in this post. You did say there was an “increase in demand elsewhere” but you declined to identify the massive consumers that are drowning out our production increase and denying us any benefit from our surprising conservation efforts.

    That was a nice graph. That is about all this post is good for. This post, like your political career, has a very slimy feel.

  4. M Tucker says:

    You can say it all day long but the US economy has nothing to do with how oil prices are set. It is world demand. It is a world oil market. Even if 300 million Americans stop buying gasoline and diesel 2 billion Chinese and Indians will still determine the price. A stupid revolution in a minor supplier like Libya will still drive up WORLD prices.

  5. Rockfish says:

    I read it differently. I thought he was saying if we just don’t need to use much of it, it doesn’t matter what the price is.

  6. Raul M. says:

    Well dress nicely as you don’t use gas and gather the signatures needed to get the fossil fuel luxury tax on the ballot. See that luxury tax would help areas to recover from natural disasters and anthropogenic weather disasters by having the money already in the bank when disaster strikes.

  7. SecularAnimist says:

    Well, we do need to use “a lot less oil”.

    Like, none.

    And unfortunately, fuel economy standards that require the big automakers to build cars with the fuel efficiencies that they achieved 20 years ago by 2025 is not going to get us there.

  8. Joe Romm says:

    Uhh, you are completely missing my point and arguing against a straw man. The only way to protect oneself from higher WORLD oil prices is to lower oil consumed per dollar of GDP.

  9. nyc-tornado-10 says:

    Gasoline and oil prices peaked in july of 2008, and in spite of 3 years of economic growth, they have not reached those highs again. Oil reached 147 a barrel in july 2008, it is now around 95 dollars.

    Today’s cars are already significantly more efficient, there is an increasing choice of hybrids, electrics, and plug ins. battery costs are dropping 6% a year, while battery capacity is increasing, which will limit the ability of oil companies to rip us off for their poisonous product. There is a long way to go, but i would not bet against american technology, we are quite resourceful.

  10. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    What I find truly unsettling about this comment is the observation about ‘..unstable parts of the world’. These countries are unstable and have suffered decades of tragedy, rule by cruel despots, invasion, sanctions, subversion and foreign invasion, with millions of casualties, because of Western, principally US, policy, to control global hydrocarbons. Until and unless the USA is prepared to allow other countries to decide their own futures, free of outside interference disgracefully asserting its ‘moral values’ when in fact driven by the crudest self-interest, there will be no peace, no international co-operation, and no progress in addressing our pressing global problems.

  11. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Ford announced it was ending manufacture in Oz today after a decision by HQ in the US. Obviously there are many factors involved but weddedness to ‘gas guzzlers’ in the face of consumer demand for an alternative was one of them, ME