Analyst Outlines Oil Replacement Proposals

Medium or large fries? Normal or extra strength medicine? Standard or premium cable?

Americans have a lot of choices in their lives, but Luke Tonachel of the Natural Resources Defense Council wants three more: Choices of efficient vehicles, fuel and ways of travel.

Tonachel said the United States needs to break its dependence on oil during his speech “Set America Free: Getting Clean of Oil” at the Knight Law Center on Tuesday.

A policy analyst for the Defense Council, Tonachel spoke to approximately 35 people about the United States’ current environmental problems.

“We’re the country that uses the most oil,” he said. “We have a quarter of the population that China has, but we use three times as much oil.”

The United States can currently produce about half of the oil it consumes, he said, but production is leveling off, and alternative fuels will be necessary in the near future.

“Persian Gulf oil might last us another 90 years,” Tonachel said.

The United States is the world’s biggest oil consumer, he said, accounting for 24 percent of the global oil intake. Additionally, the United States is the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, he said. The effects of these gasses on global warming is also important for Tonachel.

“Of the 20 hottest years on record, 19 of them occurred since the 1980s,” he said.

Adverse environmental effects coupled with America’s oil dependence led Tonachel to campaign for new methods and new choices.

Tonachel said more choices in vehicles would benefit everyone from environmentalists to religious leaders. He warned that if American automakers don’t adopt higher environmental standards, consumers will choose more environmentally friendly cars from foreign dealers.

He suggested America establish a program to move fuel efficient tires into the marketplace and give tax breaks to truck drivers who installed idling reduction equipment that would lower emissions.

Tonachel also said doing more research in making fuel from ethanol and the production of biodiesel is essential. If successful, the research could lead to improved fuel that could replace 80 percent of today’s gasoline and diesel, he said.

“Buy the most efficient vehicle that meets your needs,” he said. “It’s important that when you’re driving, you don’t drive with a lead foot.”

Jolene Goodnight, a University law student who attended the speech, said Tonachel’s ideas about fuel could be applied in communities like Eugene.

“A small community could use a lot more alternative transportation,” she said.

Retired physicist Dan Weiner also attended. He commended Tonachel’s efforts to change the way Americans think about their vehicles and fuel.

“This country needs the political will to get it done,” he said. “That’s the big problem.”

Although some of Tonachel’s ideas could take years to implement, he said the time to act was now.

“The window for us to take action is actually very small,” he said. “You, as citizens, can make your voice heard.”