So … are you feeling the pain at the pump? According to the American Automobile Association (AAA), the national average price of gas is now $3.51 per gallon (compared to $3.12 a month ago and $2.75 at this time last year). The reasons for this price jump are pretty obvious—continuing unrest in the middle east along with a jump in gas prices from $90 a barrel for crude oil to more than $106 per barrel at the start of this week’s trading on Wall Street.
And it’ll most likely get worse before it gets better. The Washington Times reports that this week a top Federal Reserve official warned, “the central bank should react if oil prices soar as high as $150 a barrel because prices that high could throw the economy back into recession.”
In Europe, the instability of gas and oil prices has already spurred action. According to the BBC, the European Commission has urged EU nations to “invest more in energy efficiency and green technologies in order to retain economic advantages.” EU Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard said in a statement, “We need to start the transition towards a competitive low carbon economy now. The longer we wait, the higher the cost will be.”
Some of the benefits the EU anticipates from this strategy include:
* Over a 40-year period, it is “estimated that energy efficiency and the switch to domestically produced low carbon energy sources will reduce the EU’s average fuel costs by between 175–320 bn euros ($244–448 bn) per year.”
* Because the number of people working in the renewables industry in Europe has more than doubled over the last five years, “the commission projects that serious investment could increase the total number employed in this sector to 1.5 million by 2020.”
* “If the efficiency target is achieved on top of the renewables goal, emissions will fall 25% from 1990 levels by 2020 without the need for any extra measures.”
The commission’s plan to achieve these efficiency goals includes refurbishing “at least 3% of publicly owned building stock each year, establishment of efficiency standards for public building stock, and the roll-out of smart meters.” And the hope is that changes in domestic demand and use will forestall the need to reevaluate international treaties and agreements.
In the US, the plan to counteract rising fuel prices is distressingly familiar: Release of crude oil from the US’ Strategic Petroleum Reserve.
So what do you think? Is the European Union better equipped to make the sort of changes to domestic policy that can increase efficiency and reduce demand while simultaneously reducing their dependence on foreign oil? And how do we battle the notion that renewable energy is expensive and unable to generate enough energy to meet half of our nation’s energy needs?
To read more about the European Commission’s plans, click here.