How to Take Control Back from Oil

You must remember this. There are 2 things everybody everywhere along the political spectrum agrees on: (1) Casablanca (“You must remember this/A kiss is just a kiss…” is an amazing, unforgettable movie (We’ll always have Paris…) and (2) Dependence on oil is a threat to U.S. security.

A lot of the world’s people keep winding up in Casablanca-like circumstances because of the struggle for control of Middle East oil. Anne Korin and Deron Lovaas, the authors of Mobility Choices for a Secure America, believe a significant change in the nation’s transportation system and infrastructure is necessary to change U.S. oil dependence. They propose 10 concrete things U.S. policymakers can do to change transportation and interrupt oil dependence. By doing so, policymakers can also stimulate U.S. economic competitiveness, promote energy efficiency and harvest clean, inexpensive domestic energy.

The single guiding concept to the critique is that oil can be disempowered by stripping it of its unfair competitive advantages in the marketplace.

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Korin and Lovaas begin with 4 principles that would change the transportation marketplace:

(1) Price the true costs of transportation goods like oil and eliminate advantages to oil from subsidies.

(2) Base federal investment on and charge for the actual use of federal resources like roads and bridges.

(3) Make municipalities accountable for better performance because that is where the most traffic is and where the most oil use happens.

(4) Deploy technology to make taxpayer investments in transportation more efficient.

These principles are the basis for 10 policy recommendations… ::continue::

The 10 policy recommendations are:

(1) Make the price of fuel include the cost burden for securing oil.

(2) Deploy “HOT” lanes and create charges for use of oil consuming infrastructure, especially at times of higher congestion.

(3) Maximize public transportation spending to minimize oil consumption.

(4) Allow auto insurers to reward drivers that reduce oil consumption.

(5) Provide transit vouchers to low-income households.

(6) Reward drivers for the trip not taken through encouragement of online employment and transactions.

(7) Funnel gas tax revenues to high traffic areas in ways that maximize oil consumption reductions.

(8) Change local land-use rules and laws to facilitate increased use of public transportation, biking and walking.

(9) Use smart traffic management.

(10) Use electric rail transport where it is cost-effective and cuts oil consumption.

Footnote: The proposal raises an interesting question: Would a federal “national security” fee charged for the import of every barrel of oil or for every gallon of pumped gas be more palatable than a “gas tax” to a public enamored of its military adventures?

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This post is based on Mobility Choices for a Secure America, Anne Korin and Deron Lovaas, 3 December 2009, Mobility Choice.

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