Another day, another oil-related environmental disaster.
This time, it is the ruptured ExxonMobil oil pipeline under the Yellowstone River in Montana. The pipeline burst last week, sending 1,000 barrels of oil into the river, which is swollen from flooding. Oil has already traveled at least 25 miles downstream, and the floodwaters threaten to leave oil contamination on the fields of nearby farmers.
The Yellowstone disaster is a perfect microcosm of the failure of America’s energy policies of the last few decades. The pipeline is owned by a company, ExxonMobil, that has been heavily subsidized by U.S. taxpayers, is among the most profitable firms in the nation, and pays virtually no federal income taxes. The flooding that likely triggered the pipeline breach is part of a pattern of record-setting floods in the Midwest and Northwest consistent with the kind of changes to be expected in a warming world. (Said warming having been caused in part by oil consumption and having been denied for decades by companies such as ExxonMobil.) Meanwhile, even as oil gushes into the Yellowstone, oil companies are proposing to build an even bigger pipeline across the Yellowstone to carry environmentally destructive tar sands oil from Canada to the United States.
In short, oil is bad news. It’s bad news for the economy, for our national security and for our environment. And as the easy-to-get-to oil is depleted in the U.S. and worldwide, the impact of oil consumption on our air, water and land is only going to grow.
For much of the last year, we at Frontier Group have been working to develop a road map for how the United States can finally break the grip of petroleum dependence, using a suite of local, state and federal policies. Getting Off Oil: A 50-State Roadmap for Curbing Our Dependence on Petroleum is the result of those efforts.
Getting Off Oil describes how the United States can cut our use of petroleum for energy by 31 percent by 2030. And that is just what we know we can achieve now. By laying the groundwork for the deployment of plug-in cars, developing new renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies, and embracing new ways of living and building community that are less dependent on fossil fuels, I’m convinced we can go even farther.
The key, however, is to start now. For more than 40 years, Americans have hungered for freedom from dependence on fossil fuels. As our new report shows, we now have the technological and policy tools to finally make it happen. Let’s hope our leaders at every level of government recognize that potential and put the nation on a course to a cleaner future.
Associate Director and Senior Policy Analyst, Frontier Group
Tony Dutzik is associate director and senior policy analyst with Frontier Group. His research and ideas on climate, energy and transportation policy have helped shape public policy debates across the U.S., and have earned coverage in media outlets from the New York Times to National Public Radio. A former journalist, Tony lives and works in Boston.