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May 09, 2010

Capping the Gusher

Friday night's attempt to stop the oil that's gushing 5,000 feet down on the floor of the Gulf of Mexico didn't work. Of course, BP will keep trying -- and I pray they succeed, because the sight of rust-orange muck spreading across the Gulf keeps coming back to me. I wrote about how speechless it left me in today's L.A. Times.

So I hope the engineers get it figured out -- because this can't be stopped soon enough.

But there's another oil disaster, one that's not making the headlines, that needs stopping: our nation's addiction to oil. The good news is that fixing it won't require the combination of brilliant engineering and sheer luck that BP needs right now. All it will take is a thoughtful and ambitious national plan.

And unlike the engineers at the Deepwater Horizon site, we know exactly what will work.
We can start by investing in a future-oriented transportation system that provides real choices, including public transit, rail, biking, and walking. Right now, the U.S. transportation sector is almost entirely dependent on oil -- sucking down 13 of the 20 million barrels we use every day.

Because cars, minivans, pickups, and SUVs consume almost 9 million barrels every single day, we must set stringent standards for fuel economy and move quickly to bring electric vehicles to market and onto our roads.

Investing in rail will make it possible to move both goods and passengers cleanly and efficiently. And when we do use trucks for freight, let's switch them from diesel to natural gas.

But why stop there? If we transition from using oil for residential hot-water heaters and for generating electricity, we will save more than the total amount we could find on the outer continental shelf of the U.S.

So Godspeed to the people trying to stop the oil that's destroying the Gulf. But let's not forget that the best way to avoid catastrophes like this is to stop taking crazy risks just to feed Big Oil's balance sheets. Let's cap that gusher, too.

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Michael Brune

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