The US senate passed a break through energy bill. The bill proposes to raise gas mileage standards for the first time in 20 years and fund researchn alternative energy sources. The government is advocating new measures to soothe growing public concern over rising prices at the pumps.
The cost of oil was at a record level with gasoline prices hovering around $3 a gallon.
AdvertisementPresident George W. Bush recommended pushing back deadlines for the transition to cleaner gasoline additives such as ethanol, ramping up the number of oil refineries built and temporarily halting oil shipments into the nation's petroleum reserve.
Each of these recommendations is aimed at making more alternative energy available to consumers.
Meanwhile, in the Senate, Republicans are advocating $100 rebate checks for citizens to help with the high cost of gas, and one Democrat is proposing a 60-day gasoline tax "holiday."
These are temporary fixes, analysts say, for an oil shortage which, like the 1973 oil crisis, is triggered more by politics and economics than a natural paucity of global reserves or an inability to extract and produce new oil.
But many scientists warn that there will come a day when rising oil prices will not be due to political or economic pressures, but because a natural peak in global oil production will have been reached.
Once we reach this tipping point, known as "Hubbert's Peak," also known as "peak oil," global oil production will begin an irreversible decline and less oil will be available with every passing year, scientists say.
Energy experts no longer debate about whether Hubbert's peak will occur, but when.
So now the focus is shifting from reliance on fossil fuels and foreign oil toward renewable fuels and green technology. A new survey showed that Americans prefer energy conservation over more production, and that a large majority also favors tightening emissions standards.
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a Republican, also called for an "Apollo program" and said reducing foreign dependence on oil was intrinsically tied to national security.
"It's frustrating and really dangerous for us to see money going to our enemies because we have to buy oil from certain countries," he said. "We should be supporting all the alternatives."
President Bush, in his State of the Union address this year, announced an initiative to cut U.S. gasoline consumption by 20 percent over the next 10 years through a combination of alternative fuels and more efficient automobiles. He also spoke of the promises of nuclear energy, coal, ethanol and cars that could run on rechargeable batteries.
Meanwhile, on the state and local level, several developments signal a possible shift among mayors, governors and state legislatures toward energy policies that focus more on renewable fuels and conservation measures.
Minnesota Gov. Tim Aplenty, a Republican, announced the "25 by 25" program last year, with a goal that 25 percent of the energy produced and used in the state come from renewable sources by 2025.
The Nevada legislature has voted to increase the percentage of renewable resources in how the state produces electricity in four out of the last five sessions, according to the National Governors Association.
Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, a Democrat, announced a plan in late June to reduce high energy costs in the state within the next three years through conservation measures.
And New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg unveiled PlaNYC this summer, which includes 127 proposals to reduce greenhouse emissions by 30 percent by 2030 and a congestion charge for driving through certain parts of Manhattan.
Steps must be taken to identify and deploy alternatives fuels at least 10 years before peaking occurs. Even then, there will be some dire economic consequences. In addition to economic consequences, scientists also warn that oil deficits could trigger a global recession, lead to food shortages and incite conflict between nations the United States and China in particular over dwindling oil supplies.
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