Derek Brower’s Big Read (April 14) correctly details US efforts to increase near-term oil and natural gas supplies to address shortages resulting from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. But history shows that high prices and security anxieties generally increase US policy efforts to reduce oil consumption. This suggests the Biden administration can use newly urgent energy security and inflation concerns to galvanise political support for long-term alternatives to oil.
It was during the oil shocks of the 1970s that the US first instituted fuel economy standards. In 2007, as oil prices rose and Middle East security issues were again to the fore, George W Bush and a Democratic Congress agreed on additional mileage regulations. Today electric vehicles, if granted consumer tax credits, hold the promise of far deeper cuts in oil consumption which is crucial since oil used in transportation is the largest source of US greenhouse gas emissions.
The US can also drive down emissions from natural gas, especially by limiting fugitive emissions of methane, to levels many times lower than the Russian gas imports Europe is trying to displace. And the US can work together with the EU to reduce both domestic and European electricity sector emissions through greater use of renewable energy, electricity storage, hydrogen and many other technologies. In short, the current crisis should be a boon to clean energy technologies, not a hindrance, if the US will only seize the opportunity.
Professorial Lecturer, Center for Environmental Policy, American University, Washington, DC, US