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The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is a rude reminder of the risks inherent in an economy dependent upon petroleum. But there's a quieter crisis in the other gulf - the Persian Gulf - that should call Americans' attention to the even more severe consequences of relying upon imported oil. The costs of using the military to protect the transport of oil from the most turbulent part of the world should convince our country's policymakers to increase investments in researching and developing affordable, American-made clean-burning alternative fuels. But, first, we have to understand the real causes, costs and consequences of importing 12.9 million barrels of oil per day, which make up nearly 60 percent of U.S. oil consumption at a total direct cost of roughly $300 billion per year.