Environmentalists, defense advocates call for “oil security fee”

By Todd Woody
November 23, 2010

mobility coalition

A coalition of environmentalists, national security advocates and budget hawks on Tuesday called for an “oil security fee” and deployment of new transportation technology  to lessen dependence on imported oil and to promote “mobility choice.”

“Oil’s virtual monopoly over transportation fuel coupled with limited economical and convenient alternatives for moving people and goods have made oil a strategic commodity and the lifeblood of the domestic and global economies,” stated a report released by the coalition, called Mobility Choice. “Choice involves both having a range of fuels to power the passenger fleet and having alternative options to driving to accomplish our daily rounds.”

The group called for an “oil security fee” on gasoline and diesel to reflect the true cost of securing oil supplies as well as policies to promote more efficient mass transportation, telecommuting and mixed use residential development.

“We’re not paying the security price of oil at the pump,” Anne Korin, co-director of the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security, a Washington, D.C. non-profit, said during a press conference Tuesday.  “It’s important to internalize that cost with an oil security fee either at the pump or upstream.”

While the odds of Congress passing legislation to impose such a fee may be slim, the group’s advocacy of technological solutions to slash fuel use and promote mass transit may receive a more favorable hearing.

“Information technology has changed the worlds of commerce and leisure, allowing us to contact colleagues and loved ones around the globe nearly instantly,” the report stated. “Yet much of America’s transportation infrastructure is still basically stuck in the 1950s.”

The nation’s 300,000 traffic signals are a case in point.

“Making signals adaptive to real-time traffic conditions will reduce traffic delays, reduce emissions and reduce fuel use,” said Paul Feenstra, vice president of government affairs for ITS America, a non-profit that promotes transportation technology. “Just by improving traffic signals alone we could save about a million barrels of oil a day.”

The group also advocated using information technology to deploy congestion pricing systems like those used in Europe that charge drivers different rates to enter urban areas at certain times.

Sensors and cameras deployed along roads and highways could monitor cars and quickly report accidents,  allowing for variable speed limits that change according to traffic conditions, the report said.

And mobile phone and GPS technology could provide drivers with real-time parking information so they don’t burn fuel circling city block looking for an open space. The same technology can be used to dispatch buses and trains to ensure that they go where they’re needed and are efficiently used.

“We need more flexibility to choose different ways of traveling,” said Deron Lovaas, federal transportation policy director for the Natural Resources Defense Council.

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