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Oil, Hurricanes and Cars

It seemed enough for the residents of the Gulf Coast, especially Louisiana, to be concerned with the severe weather and damage that Hurricane Isaac was bringing, but now there is more.

State officials from the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness are warning citizens that oil in the form of tar balls or tar mats could wash up on the coastline. BP responded with skepticism, favoring a “wait-and-see” approach. To their credit, BP did use an unprecedented amount of chemical dispersants at the site of the spill. Regardless, the danger of oil washing up on the coast has once again put residents at a health risk, and threatens an already fragile ecosystem.

The threat of oil on the coast is a symptom of a larger disease that the United States has contracted. “Addiction” shouldn’t be used so flippantly, but it is difficult to categorize it as anything else. Large amounts of the American public still favor “oil at any cost,” or “drill baby, drill,” ignoring the short- and long-term consequences, and the risk of crises caused by oil extraction and production. It is simply too difficult to end or cut back on their consumption of oil, so they keep going back for more. Fortunately, it appears that even if the country is still dependent on oil in 2025, at least we’ll be using less; addiction is to be taken in steps.

On August 28th, the Obama Administration finalized the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFÉ) standards, setting the 2025 requirement for average fuel economy for new cars at 54.5 miles per gallon. At the end of 2011, the requirement was 28.9 mpg, half of the 2025 requirement. The aim of the standards is primarily to decrease dependence on foreign oil, but as an intended effect, it will decrease oil usage by conserving demand.

Ultimately, this is a small step toward a much larger goal, but it’s better than the alternative.

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