Apr 042011
Authors: The Maneater

Fuel is a hot commodity and one we Americans often underestimate in our relatively low-cost energy market. Our infrastructure, our politics and our very lifestyle are all designed with the need to allocate energy the most efficiently. Even down to the level of college students, the energy market has countless strings that tie down finances and resources.
We notice this most heavily in the price of gasoline. Often we bemoan the prices of fuel when they rise near the $4 per gallon mark, but we fail to realize that the U.S. actually enjoys relatively cheap fuel prices compared to nations like Great Britain or France who pay more than $7 per gallon.
The U.S. government has been subsidizing oil companies for decades in order to offset the cost of gasoline to consumers. That means almost $40 billion in taxpayer money is paid directly to oil companies for fuel each year.
We are one of the few countries who do this, and it begs the question – what if we allocated that money beyond oil?
A new wave of hybrids and fully electric vehicles has recently become available to consumers, and they seem to be catching on fairly well. But the technology is only a newcomer in an arena of giants.
A bill recently died in Congress that proposed cutting oil subsidies completely. Undoubtedly, doing so would increase the costs of fuel. But what if we took the $40 billion and gave it back to consumers, in the form of credits households could use to purchase an electric vehicle?
House Republicans were responsible for killing the “Ending Big Oil Tax Subsidies” Act, but it almost certainly traces back even further to energy lobbyists infecting legislation.
How long is it going to take for us to realize we’ve been mucking around in oil long enough? Politicians continue to stall legislation that would release the death grip oil companies have on the energy market. How does that benefit us or count as forward thinking?
We have no excuses for staying grounded in oil like we are. We are a progressive society, and the technology is there.
The answer to stymieing oil subsidies is to cut off demand for oil itself, and that’s where our generation can succeed.

It’s simple. Cutting oil subsidies will cause the price of gasoline to increase toward its natural equilibrium. The high price will necessarily shrink demand for oil and create massive demand for non-oil dependant transportation.

Taking the money from oil subsidies, and giving it to households for electric cars in a cash-for-clunkers-esque manner would give the auto-industry more than enough incentive to innovate away from oil in order to make massive gains off the new clean energy market’s demand.

Rallying around high-speed rail development and promoting infrastructure changes to accommodate more clean energy use are just a couple ways we can move away from this archaic age of oil.

It’s our generation who is ultimately responsible for realizing enough is enough, and that the oil fad should have died decades ago. The technology is there, has been there for a long time, and there’s no reason for us to continue driving our parents’ cars.

If we are to call ourselves a progressive generation, we can’t allow oil companies to continue weighing us down.

If we create the demand, the market will follow. Students need to realize they in fact do carry enough influence to change demand, and ultimately, the way we consume energy._

Contributed by The Maneater editorial board at the University of Missouri. _

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