You might not have realized that OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) celebrated its 50th anniversary last week. Did we hold a big celebration? Not so much!
Back in 1960, the oil cartel was created among member nations that still control the vast amount of global oil reserves: Iraq, Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. The purpose of the cartel? Well, let’s just say that its bottom line has been to protect profits for these oil-rich nations.
But a lot has changed for the U.S. – and the world in general – over the past half-century. So much so that most of us believe that 50 years of OPEC is enough.
For the United States, we’ve gone from importing 34% of our oil in 1973, to relying on 60% foreign oil in 2010. We got the first taste of what an oil monopoly costs when the oil embargo against the U.S. in 1974 resulted in gasoline rationing and a (pardon the pun) tanking economy.
Too bad we didn’t continue to work on reducing our foreign oil dependence 35 years ago.
America used to be a strong creditor nation, and now we’re mired deep in debt, thanks in large part to oil imports. A recent Seattle Times editorial notes:
A major cause of our currently stalled economy is the vast amount we spend importing oil, averaging a billion dollars a day over the past three years. In June alone, oil imports accounted for $27 billion of the $47 billion trade deficit.
And just consider where our wars over the past 20 years have been fought. Experts consider that OPEC will likely increase in power and revenues in future years, as the oil output of other nations declines. Where will that leave us when the elementary school kids of today are graduating high school?
So, what can we do, if we are ready to reduce our oil dependence as a nation and start rebuilding a strong economy? Some lessons from the 1970s should be considered. Particularly with respect to transportation. We are an automobile nation, and if we’re not driving there, we are probably flying. When President Obama is calling for new investments in roads and airports to create jobs and stimulate the economy, we have to consider how we are going to fuel those vehicles!
That’s why the push to transition to electric vehicles is so important. Its not just getting automobile manufacturers to create EVs and PEHVs, we need to have the infrastructure and regulatory reform to support a broad-based transition to a new way to commute.
Grants from the U.S. Department of Energy are helping to fund electric vehicle charging stations up and down the West Coast next year, along the I-5 corridor that runs from Canada to Mexico through Seattle and L.A.
Could we expand this across the nation? Of course we could!
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Idaho has been working to develop EV recharging infrastructure along the West Coast. Seems like investing federal dollars in similar programs from coast to coast makes sense, too!
If you agree that 50 years of OPEC is enough, then please add a comment to encourage continued investment in EV infrastructure!