Page 8 - May-June 2012

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May/June 2012
Public Citizen News
If you depend on your car to get around, it’s hard to avoid forking over big
bucks at the gas station. Public Citizen activist Marc Fontana, from Santa
Clara, Calif., made the decision to break his oil dependence by purchasing an
electric vehicle. Purchasing a new vehicle is a tremendous investment and not an
option for everyone, but it represents one way consumers can use their purchas-
ing power to transform the transportation sector.
 Here, Marc shares his story about his 2011 Nissan LEAF Electric Vehicle (EV). 
“I ordered the LEAF in December of 2
to be delivered. It was worth the wait. Dr
one, which has a range of 100-120 miles
paying attention to how you drive. I am f
cisco Bay Area where there are thousand
charging stations are being installed. I al
in my garage, which is actually saving m
vehicle so it will drive 100 miles is about
per kilowatt hour), and since I have a ph
An Activist
Goes Electric
Every president since Richard
Nixon has said we need to break
our dependence on oil, but little
has been accomplished. This,
in part, is because every time
gas prices go up, the
government reacts the
same way: It issues a
call to drill more.
But we can’t pro-
duce our way to lower
gas prices. Domestic
gas prices are largely
determined by the
global market price of
oil. Right now, even
though our current
demand is down and
U.S. production is at
an all-time high, the
cost of retail gasoline is
still projected to hover
around $4 a gallon throughout
the summer months.
The perennial response to drill
more in the United States when-
ever gas prices surge is a fun-
damentally misguided reaction
because it fails to address our
dependence on oil.
In addition, it incorrectly sug-
gests that we would be less vul-
nerable to price volatility if we
depended less on foreign sourc-
es. According to a May report
from the Congressional Budget
Office, the United States has very
little ability to af-
fect the world price
of oil by increasing
the supply of oil to
the market.
What does
increased drill-
ing accomplish? It
further enriches
the very industry
that spends mil-
lions to influence
legislation and
push policymak-
ers to maintain
the dirty energy
economy. And as
long as “Drill, Baby, Drill” is the
U.S. mantra, Americans should
expect to keep reliving the pain
at the pump.
The knee-jerk response to drill
more is particularly alarming
because it means moving into
deeper water to get to harder-to-
recover resources. Public Citizen
opposes the expansion of deep-
water drilling not just because of
the insignificant effect it would
have on domestic gas prices,
but primarily because it is an
inherently dangerous practice
that, combined with a corporate
culture of putting profit before
safety, is responsible for one of
the most devastating environ-
mental disasters in U.S. history
— the Deepwater Horizon spill in
the Gulf of Mexico.
In fact, the move to drill more
in deep water is a signal that our
access to conventional sources
of oil is on the decline. Instead of
spending resources to squeeze
every last drop of oil from the
earth, pushing us toward cata-
strophic climate change, we
should be investing in alterna-
tive energy sources and tech-
nologies and a more efficient
transportation sector.
High gas prices don’t just
embolden drilling proponents,
they also give decision-makers
a platform to assign superfi-
cial blame and score political
points through short-term policy
fixes, which fail to address the
problem head-on. For example,
Republicans use high gas prices
as an opportunity to attack En-
vironmental Protection Agency
(EPA) rules established to reduce
emissions of toxic air pollutants
and ozone-forming compounds.
These standards are necessary to
meet National Ambient Air Qual-
ity Standards authorized by the
Clean Air Act, especially in the
summer, when higher
temperatures can more readily
cause gasoline to contribute to
“smog” or ground-level ozone
formation. The safeguards are in
place to protect the public from
toxic pollution.
Do we really want to sacrifice
our health for the false promise
of lower gas prices, especially
when there are better options to
address gas prices in the short-
term and ample solutions to
transition the U.S. away from oil
in the long-term?
Public Citizen is educating the
public and Congress about false
solutions such as increasing
drilling and relaxing regulations,
while at the same time highlight-
ing the role of financial specula-
tion in driving up gas prices and
promoting the necessary steps to
rein in speculation in the global
oil market.
Cracking down on speculators
can shave as much as a dollar off
the price of gas, but ultimately
Allison Fisher is outreach director for Public Citizen’s Energy Program.
Pain at the Pump
For Americans to get long-term relief, we need to break our dependence on oil