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Today the National Resources Defense Council held a conference call to announce the release of a  white paper analysing the degrees of vulnerability of the 50 states to changes in oil prices. And guess what? If gas prices were to spike to 2008 levels, the amount of the average Missourian’s income spent on gasoline would increase from 4.02% to 7.10%. Imagine the effect on living standards and economic growth and the picture isn’t pretty.

The NRDC analysis, which pits factors such as gas consumption, number of of drivers, and per capita income per state, against the cost of gas, leads to the conclusion that, in the words of Deron Lovaas, a transportation expert at the NRDC, “Our ongoing oil addiction is draining our wallets and our economy … .”

The NRDC white paper makes two main recommendations to ameliorate to this situation:

*  Pass comprehensive climate and energy legislation that limits carbon dioxide emissions, helps us break our oil addiction, and helps create millions of clean energy jobs here in the United States; and

* Fundamentally reform federal transportation policy to support smart, transit-oriented development; assist states and regions in saving oil; and provide ample funding for energy-efficient transportation alternatives including rail and bus lines, bike paths, sidewalks, and other alternatives to driving.

Of course, enacting such policies requires a substantial amount of political will, the dearth of which was exactly the point several reporters made, directly or indirectly,  during the Q&A. A common theme was whether or not these initiatives, which require  some upfront spending, are feasible during a time of economic retrenchment. Lovass responded that cutting our dependency on foreign oil would, by hugely reducing our trade deficit, have an equally positive effect on our economic growth.


At least one reporter questioned the postive effect of public transit initiatives for the big rural expanses of the state. In response, Lovass emphasized the fact that the transportation recommendation is flexible and offers more than a single tool. For rural citizens, incentives to move to cleaner vehicles might be more important than mass transit, and would ultmately boost demand for clean cars, potentially reving up domestic manufacturing of such cars –  and, incidentally, providing yet another economic benefit.

The NRDC staff present on the call also emphasized the importance of having a consistent energy policy, rather than the reactive stance that has characterized our national response to energy spikes in the past. For example, they noted that the “boom-and-bust” in alternative fuel production that we have seen with respect to ethanol and other alternatives could only be mitigated by the effects of consistent policies, such as a more even-handed approach to gasoline pricing.

SoHear that Claire McCaskill, Kit Bond, Roy Blunt, and all the rest of you obstructionists who go around wringing theiryour hands about the costs of clean energy legislation? The cost of doing nothing, or responding to our energy and climate crisis with minor measures, will eventually get very expensive since nobody thinks that gas prices will continue to remain at their current level ad infinitum. And you lot could, if  you have the intelligence or the courage, be responsible for putting our country on the right track – which, since you all like to parade your patriotism, must surely be what you want to do?