LIVING GREEN for Oct. 11, 2012

For Weekly SurgeOctober 8, 2012 

Talking enviro-politics

I’m not a fan of politics nor will you find me writing much about it. However, with the Obama-Romney presidential debate having taken place Oct. 3 at my graduate school, the University of Denver, I couldn’t help but tune in for a little bit and hear what the candidates had to say about environmental issues.

Regardless of the debate, according to U.S. News, there are three energy issues to watch for during the presidential election.

The first is oil and gas production. Gov. Romney has had a focus on further oil and gas exploration while Obama has emphasized the potentials found in alternative energy sources such as wind and solar. Romney even declared “I like coal” during the debate.

Another energy issue includes energy subsidies to support the industry. President Obama apparently has campaigned to renew the wind production tax credit and Romney thinks that the market, not the government, should determine which companies survive.

The third energy issue is about regulation. Romney has pounded Obama about the EPA and other regulations that he claims are destroying jobs and hindering economic growth. Obama says regulations are important to protect the environment, public health and balance the costs and benefits of energy production.

As usual, the views on these major energy issues sounds like polar opposites in the presidential campaign, but how much can they actually resolve once they reach the White House? To me, many energy issues are also found on the state and local levels. We, as consumers, are also responsible for these issues.

The oil and gas production doesn’t really seem like an easy fix through the federal or presidential level. The United States consumes about 20 million barrels of oil products per day, according to the Department of Energy (DOE), and almost half of that is used for motor gasoline. About 45 percent of our consumption comes from foreign oil. The supply has to meet the demand and I think each of us should take personal responsibility for our driving habits and our car purchases. Driving a Hummer is not the same as driving a Prius, but we all pay the same price per gallon at the pump, just one has to fill up more often.

So who sets the prices for the gas you pay for at the pump? Just like any other consumer product, gas has a supply chain and the money is broken up and distributed to several entities. Also, according to the DOE, here is an approximation of where your dollar on gas goes: Taxes at 13 cents, Distribution and Marketing at 8 cents, Refining at 14 cents and Crude Oil at 65 cents. The amount of crude oil that countries produce determines the price of a barrel of oil. Factors such as production costs and natural disasters can greatly increase the costs. Federal and state governments place taxes on gasoline, just like any other product and there may even be additional taxes, so some taxes can average to be about 27 cents.

In Europe, gas prices are much higher because taxes are much higher. For example, in Great Britain, gas, which is also known as petrol, costs as much as $11 a gallon and there is speculation of rising gas prices into 2013. Try paying that price for a little while and you can better understand why Europe is far more advanced in alternative transportation such as walking, biking and public transit.

While electric cars may seem to be a great future alternative, think again. The actual cost to build one all-electric vehicle for General Motors was about $90,000, although now with the proper production, they still cost about $55,000 a car to produce. Yet, they are being sold for less than that cost and not making profit for the companies. There is also a lack of interest and a lack of infrastructure to support such future vehicles, especially in areas such as South Carolina.

Maybe we will get there, maybe. It just seems that car companies are responsible for creating the fuel efficiency in their vehicles and consumers are responsible for the types of vehicles they purchase. We rely on oil and gas and that is a fact of life. A good reference site for gas prices across South Carolina is www.southcarolinagasprices.com

There is much riding on this presidential election, such as the economy, healthcare, foreign policy and the environment. However, there is also much riding on the local elections, too. The real change you will probably encounter for this election season may be found through local politicians in our state and county. Change is only as effective as those who support it and make it happen on the local level.

You also personally can make change in your lifestyle. Every little bit of gas or energy saved helps, especially if we all work together.

Check out the State Election Commission Web site at www.scvotes.org for details about candidates, voting procedures, etc. Figure out what issues are most important to you and vote accordingly. On Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 6, polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. in Horry County. Registered voters must show a valid form of ID, such as a driver’s license. The last day to register to vote in the general election was Oct. 6, so hopefully you are all set.

You can’t complain later, if you didn’t vote.

Jennifer Sellers is the sustainability coordinator at Coastal Carolina University and offers her eco-views at her blog, mygreenglasses.com. Contact her at jen@mygreenglasses.com.

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