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Oil Independence Will Not Eliminate Vulnerability:
RFF President testifies that global oil prices remain primary concern

Contact: Janet Hodur, 202-328-5019

(WASHINGTON, D.C., March 23, 2005) -- In testimony before the House Government Reform Subcommittee on Energy and Resources, Paul Portney, president and senior fellow at Resources for the Future, cited increasing oil use and dependency as the greatest energy issue currently facing the United States. Moreover, he stated, "this would be the case even if we produced domestically all of the oil we use."

Portney's testimony (Energy Demand in the 21st Century: Are Congress and the Executive Branch Meeting the Challenge?) came amid Senate action towards opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling, and at a time when oil prices are climbing to record highs. The Subcommittee sought to determine whether Congress is focusing on the most important energy issues confronting the nation, and taking the appropriate actions.

In his testimony, Portney identified vulnerability to world oil prices as a situation of key concern, and clarified that domestically produced oil would do nothing to allay this concern.


Link to Congressional Testimony
Energy Demand in the 21st Century: Are Congress and the Executive Branch Meeting the Challenge?

"That oil would be priced in world markets," he explained. "So even if it made sense to pursue import independence, which it does not, we would still be vulnerable to oil price shocks, whether naturally occurring or (due) to deliberate actions."

Another serious consequence of growing oil consumption in the United States, Portney added, is increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. This country, he pointed out, is responsible for nearly one-quarter of the total global carbon dioxide emissions each year. Fourteen percent of the U.S. contributions comes from petroleum used for personal transport, a situation Portney feels cannot continue.

"Whether it is a renewed and hopefully more enlightened debate on the future of Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards or a serious discussion of measures to increase the price of gasoline through gradual increases in the federal excise tax on gasoline, Congress needs to address this issue immediately," he stated. "As painful as these debates might be, it is far better to deal with these questions now than in the midst of a serious interruption in crude oil availability."

Portney provided several suggestions for Congress to consider, moving forward with energy policy. Among them, he encouraged development of exploration and production of natural gas, taxes on carbon or other pollutant emissions, and a reexamination of the way the federal government is organized to conduct energy policy.


Paul Portney is available for interviews on this subject. Resources for the Future, an independent and nonpartisan Washington, D.C., think-tank, seeks to improve environmental and natural resource policymaking worldwide through objective social science research of the highest caliber.



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