You Decide

Produced by KQED

montage: fuel gauge points to empty, gasoline prices, traffic jamShould the United States end its dependence on foreign oil?

  • Yes? But have you considered...
  • No? But have you considered...

…that the United States doesn’t have the domestic oil reserves to make up the difference?

The United States consumes 21 million barrels of oil per day, more than any other nation — this amounts to about 25 percent of the world’s total consumption. Yet the United States has only 3 percent of the world’s proven oil reserves. That 3 percent yields about 5 million barrels per day, and if production were to remain at the same level, the reserves would last 11 or 12 years.

What would we do once those reserves dried up?

…that consuming foreign oil at the rate that we do prevents us from developing alternatives?

Since the 1930s, the American economic order has relied on increasing oil imports – even subsidizing them — so that Americans pay very little for gasoline, especially compared with what people pay in other countries that import oil. When we consider alternative fuels, we compare them against the American standards for gasoline prices (set generations ago), which are skewed to begin with. The misguided perception that petroleum is cheap has prevented the United States from investing sufficiently in alternatives, which are perceived as expensive.

It’s a matter of consumer demand and pocketbooks: Without consumers demanding more efficient energy sources, both the government and industry have little motivation to create alternatives. Alternatives are the only long-term solution to our energy problem.


Considering this, should the United States end its dependence on foreign oil?

Nothing about the issues facing the candidates and American voters in 2008 is black and white. With these You Decide activities, you can explore both sides of an issue, put your own critical thinking to work, and discuss the pros and cons with others. In the end, perhaps you will ask different — and better — questions than those presented here.


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