Cutting Energy Dependence

According to the World Factbook, the United States is the world’s largest emitter of carbon dioxide from fossil fuels despite having less than 5% of its population. Partly this is due to interstate highways and low density, but also because we use gasoline as a convenience and frequently waste it. For the past four or five months I have worked to reduce my oil consumption considerably. Cutting down on gasoline use leads to a healthier, safer lifestyle and will help America stay competitive in a global economy. Moving from right to left across the political spectrum, I list five reasons why you should cut down on the amount of gasoline you use.

Oil addiction jeopardizes national security. According to the Wall Street Journal’s Fred Kempe among many others, Iran has used its oil money to fund Hezbollah, which in turn has thrown the Middle East into chaos by firing rockets at Israel. Iran has also funded Shi’ite political groups in Iraq. Iran also supports Moqtada al-Sadr, the radical cleric in Najaf who criticizes the US, enjoys local support, and would turn Iraq into a religious theocracy. Individuals in Saudi Arabia, flush with oil money, support extremist and terrorist organizations. The fact remains that if oil was cheaper, if there is less demand, Iran and Saudi Arabia and individuals in those countries would have less power, and less ability to influence world events.

High prices restrict our ability to spread freedom around the world. Every time we pay for gasoline we contribute to worldwide demand for gas. As demand inches closer and closer to maximum supply levels, the price of oil skyrockets and suppliers like Saudi Arabia, Russia, and Iran profit. Because we depend on the oil they produce, they can and do use their production as leverage. Vladimir Putin, the prime minister of Russia, has slowly undermined democracy there while America and European nations, scared to jeopardize their supply, watch. In Saudi Arabia, women experience severe discrimination and civil liberties like freedom of speech or the right to a fair trial are non-existent. The less we depend on Russia, Iran, and Saudi Arabia for oil, the more we’ll be able to spread freedom around the world.

High gas prices are bad for our economy. Said Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank in testimony to the Senate, “The increase in energy prices is clearly making the economy worse off both in terms of real activity and in terms of inflation. There is no question about it.” If Iran or any terrorist were to destroy a Middle Eastern refinery, or if Iran decided to stop selling oil until it was granted nuclear technology, the price would shoot past $100/barrel, wreaking havoc on the U.S. economy and most likely ushering in a recession.

$3-a-gallon-gas is expensive. High gas prices drain my wallet of cash, if not yours.

Fossil fuel emissions hurt the environment. Global warming is a well-documented trend whose validity is doubted by a fraction of one percent of scientists worldwide. Unfortunately, in search of ‘balance’ in the media, the dissenting fraction has been exaggerated. The carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, hydrocarbons, and nitrogen oxide cars emit all have harmful effects to our environment, and contribute to rising ocean levels and warming of the atmosphere.

Here are some ways that you can cut your energy consumption:

Stop driving your kids to soccer practice. Make them walk, bike, or carpool instead. It’s a great way for them to start getting in shape for the upcoming season. I bought a bike off Craigslist for $80 and at savings of 15 cents a mile over my car, it’s well on its way to paying itself off.

Start using alternative energy. There are numerous federal deductions for buying alternative energy products like hybrid cars or solar panels. Bonneville Environmental Foundation (www.b-e-f.org) takes a creative approach by ‘taxing’ your fossil fuel production – you can buy Green Tags to offset your carbon dioxide emissions by investing in wind and solar power.

Keep the Escalade in the driveway for trips to the grocery store. Unless you need to transport seven or more people, plan to do a significant amount of off-roading, or feel a burning need to show off your status at a party/fundraiser/function, you can and should drive a car that gets better gas mileage. Moreover, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, SUV’s are more likely to roll over in crashes and have higher death rates than passenger cars.

Use your gas more efficiently. Cars lose fuel efficiency at speeds over 55 mph. It is unpractical to drive this slowly on the freeway, but slowing down saves gas and reduces the risk of accidents. Rolling up windows, turning down the A/C, keeping your tires inflated, using cruise control, and turning off your car for stops longer than 30 seconds all keep gas waste to a minimum.

In sum, using as much gasoline as we do is unhealthy and dangerous for our country and the world. We need to start cutting back on our addiction, and the sooner we do the better and stronger we will be. In light of a government that is unwilling to take the necessary unpopular steps to curb our excess consumption, we must take it upon ourselves to ensure America, and the world, will be habitable for our children.

Kevin just graduated from The Athenian School in Danville. He is going to attend University of Pennsylvania in the fall.

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