Are STRONG Policies the Start of Rehab for U.S. Addiction?

The New America Foundation's Lisa Margonelli, director of the think tank's energy initiative, has developed a new acronym: STRONG (Secure Transportation Reducing Oil Needs Gradually) and while the translation is a little awkward, the meaning may be starting to sink in.

The tragedies in the Gulf of Mexico are a good launching pad for lots of things. In the last two weeks, I have received at least six technological "solutions" guaranteed to take care of the oil spill. The contamination is spreading further east and onshore, affecting more species and more economies. And now cleanup crews are being warned about long-term health effects. Could the STRONG initiative be a reasonable approach to easing our oil addiction?

Margonelli's "Strong America 2020" outlines ways that the United States can reduce demand on oil by more than 3 million barrels a day in 10 years with no new technology, vehicles or fuels. That's what she said: No new technology, vehicles or fuels.

The strategy centers on policy changes, none of which are without their own costs to somebody (each change is tied to a specific barrel of oil per day reduction). They are:

  • strong CAFÉ standards already in place;
  • an incremental 3 percent STRONG tax that is accompanied by a lesson in the true costs right on the pump receipt;
  • systemic transit policy upgrades (pdf) recommended by the non-partisan Mobility Choice Coalition;
  • new air traffic routing and scheduling and loans to truckers for energy efficient engines and aerodynamic designs; and
  • a guaranteed loan program for the most fuel efficient cards funded by half of the subsidies ($5 billion) now used for oil exploration.

In a way, our need for oil reminds me of our need for water. On both counts, we don't pay the full cost and we simply take for granted that we can continue this way. We need to change more than policies (although that is a good thing) and mindsets. People simply need to change they way they live and, of course, there's nothing simple about that.

(Image courtesy Department of Energy)

Posted by L.K. Williams, EPonline on Jun 14, 2010