Gas Mileage – Not Gulf Oil – Can Bring Energy Independence, Say Groups

Gas Mileage – Not Gulf Oil – Can Bring Energy Independence, Say Groups

Environmentalists are unimpressed by reports this week of a massive, new oil find in the Gulf of Mexico.

“If it turns out to actually have amount of oil that they’re currently speculating, the fact is it’s just a fraction of the oil we use every day as a nation,” Mark Farullo, director of the organization Environment Florida told OneWorld. The group has been at the forefront of efforts to limit oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

“We consume roughly 6 billion barrels of crude oil each year,” he said. “That’s a quarter of the world’s oil use. With this find, we would at best have 4 percent of the world’s oil reserves but we consume 25 percent of the world’s supply.”

On Tuesday, a trio of oil companies led by Chevron announced they’d tapped a petroleum pool off the coast of Louisiana that could boost the nation’s reserves by more than 50 percent. The companies said a test indicated it could be the biggest new domestic oil discovery since Alaska’s oil a generation ago.

Chevron estimated Tuesday that the 300-square-mile region where its test well sits could hold 3 billion to 15 billion barrels of oil.

“It would be disingenuous for anyone to tell consumers that it will change the amount of money that they’re paying for gas or have an impact on our economy,” Farullo added.

Many environmental and consumer groups argue that today’s high gas prices are caused by oil company price manipulation more than anything else. According to the Washington, DC-based group Public Citizen, profits at the five largest oil companies skyrocketed to $59.4 billion for the first six months of this year.

In a new report titled “Hot Profits and Global Warming: How Oil Companies Hurt Consumers and the Environment,” Public Citizen argues leading oil companies could have invested some of that money into alternative sources of energy but instead have spent $112 billion since 2005 to buy back their own stock and pay dividends rather than invest in infrastructure or alternative energy sources.

“Under the current market framework, oil companies aren’t making investments in ways to break our addiction to oil and apparently have no intention of doing so,” Public Citizen’s Tyson Slocum said in a statement. “With $1 trillion in assets tied up in extracting, refining, and marketing oil, their business model will squeeze the last cent of profit out of that spent capital for as long as possible.”

Oil companies have also spent considerable energy lobbying Congress and in late June convinced the House of Representatives to lift a moratorium on new off-shore drilling, replacing it with a process that would require states to take proactive measures if they wish to maintain the environmental protections currently enshrined into law.

Environmentalists argued against that, citing not only concerns over increased oil slicks, but also pointing toward service interruptions caused last year by Hurricane Katrina.

“It would be bad public policy to continue to concentrate our nation’s oil and energy supply in the Gulf of Mexico, which we know is a hurricane highway,” Environment Florida’s Farrulo said. “Every time a tropical wave forms thousands of miles away the price of oil skyrockets.”

Farullo argues that requiring better gas mileage on cars and trucks would be a better way to drive down the price of gas. A recent report by the Union of Concerned Scientists found U.S. drivers would spend $50 million less each day on gasoline if fuel efficiency increased by only one mile per gallon.

In Washington, a group of 12 senators lead by Democrat Dianne Fienstein of California have introduced a bill called the “Ten in Ten Fuel Economy Act.” The bill would require fuel economy standards for both cars and light trucks to reach 35 miles per gallon by 2017.

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