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A 12-Step Program to Break U.S. Oil Addiction

Published on Monday, February 6, 2006 by the Madison Capital Times
This 12-Step Program Can Break U.S. Oil
by Michael Brune

Our president almost came clean in his State of the Union speech last week
when he finally admitted that "America is addicted to oil." That addiction
threatens our national security, our environmental health and our way of

It is true that our leaders are exhibiting the classic signs of an addiction
denial, aggression, avoidance, blaming others and as a country we are
falling far short of reaching our full potential.

America's stubborn dependence on oil erodes our bedrock values. For it, we
will go to war, support unstable and undemocratic regimes, destabilize our
climate, decimate our forests and parks, threaten the health of our
children, and weaken our economy.

The president admitted to a national problem, but stopped well short of
committing our country to a full recovery program. We already have the
technology. What we desperately need is the courage to act now. It is time
for nothing short of a national intervention, and a 12-step program to break
America's oil addiction. Here's how:

Step 1: Let's admit that we have a problem, and commit deeply and
truthfully to a national recovery program to break our oil addiction.

Transitioning to a clean energy economy will create millions of jobs, clean
our air, protect our water supplies, our forests and our climate, and will
help to build a safer and more secure world for us all. But breaking our
addiction requires humility and an unwavering commitment to change at every
level of society. No one gets a free ride anymore.

Step 2: Separate oil and state. Every year, oil companies "invest"
millions of dollars in political candidates. In turn, elected officials dole
out more than $20 billion a year to prop up fossil fuel projects
internationally. We must reduce the oil industry's influence over public
governance and eliminate government handouts for dirty oil.

Steps 3-6: Jump-start Detroit and redesign American mobility.The
transportation sector accounts for more than two-thirds of all oil
consumption in the U.S. Our passenger train system scrounges for funding in
Washington while one out of every seven barrels of oil in the world is
consumed on America's highways alone. Led by Ford Motor Co., the American
automobile industry is driving in reverse. The average Ford vehicle gets
worse gas mileage than the Model T did almost 100 years ago. Thomas Friedman
is right the stability and very existence of the American automotive
industry depends upon American automakers building affordable,
fuel-efficient cars that all patriotic Americans can support. Pioneering
engineers have already built plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) and
new companies are inventing super-efficient biofuels made from agricultural
waste with no help from Detroit or Washington.

Steps 7-8: Start a rooftop revolution and green the grid. California is
enacting regulations to build one million homes with rooftop solar power,
generating 3,000 megawatts of power. Studies show that solar energy supports
up to 10 times more jobs than dirty fossil fuel energy. A green grid powered
by the wind and the sun can recharge car batteries and help us kick our
transportation oil habit.

Steps 9-10: Wean to green and fund the future. Capital investment from the
world's largest banks is the fuel in the engine, so to speak, of the
oil-based economy. Through their investment decisions, large banks can
either help to keep us hooked on oil, or rapidly steer us toward a clean
energy future. Some banks, including Wall Street powerhouse Goldman Sachs,
are leading the way, proving that it is indeed possible to do well by doing

Step 11: Adopt a "low-carb" energy diet. Any comprehensive strategy to
break our oil addiction must include aggressive measures to reduce energy
consumption. A low-carbon energy diet will reduce energy costs and increase
competitiveness for American businesses, lower emissions, and produce clean
jobs for workers. Efficiency improvements in the last 30 years have doubled
the amount of work we get from each barrel of oil. According to the Rocky
Mountain Institute, current proven technologies can double oil efficiency
again, for less money than would be required to buy the oil we save.

Step 12: Vote. Could it be any clearer that we need responsible and
visionary leaders at all levels of government?

Like a smoker who says he's going to quit someday even as he lights up
another cigarette, the president offered little hope that he would actually
break our country's oil addiction. It will take a lot more than a speech and
a few research dollars to set us free from oil. Let's get to work.
Michael Brune is the executive director of Rainforest Action Network and
serves as a founding board member of Oil Change International.
© 2006 The Capital Times