Seattle activists’ spirited campaign to stop Shell from exploratory drilling in the Arctic is grabbing world headlines and focusing attention on the climate impacts of exploiting the Arctic’s enormous petroleum resources. Opponents of Arctic drilling cite sound science projecting that the exploitation of Arctic oil will push global temperatures well over the 2o C threshold for a livable planet.
Shell defends its drilling in the Arctic as necessary to meet growing demand for gasoline. And demand for gasoline is growing. According to the U.S. Energy Information Agency, Americans used, on average, 375 million gallons of gasoline every day in 2014, and are projected to use even more in 2015, despite a more fuel efficient fleet of cars and a much better selection of electric cars. In 2013, Americans used more petroleum than China, India, France, and Germany combined.
The consumption of gasoline is ultimately financing the exploration and drilling for oil. Without the steady cash flow provided by growing consumption of gasoline, enormously capital-intensive projects such as Arctic oil exploration would become financially untenable and grind to a halt.
The reduction of oil consumption scarcely registers for climate activists. Other than supporting politically unfeasible carbon taxes, the environmental community has essentially no program to reduce gasoline consumption, the real driver behind the quest for more oil production.
What would a program to reduce gasoline consumption look like, especially if carbon taxes are, for now, off the table? Read more…