Addiction to foreign oil translates into pocketbook and values issues

The Saint ReportEnergy, saintblog, TransportationLeave a Comment

By Owen Eagan,
Senior Vice President, Transportation, The Saint Consulting Group

gas_pricesAs land use political consultants, our job is to educate residents on the merits of our client’s projects and turn their support into political action.  In order to do that, we need to both persuade and motivate people to vote.  In the world of politics, there are few more persuasive messages than those involving pocketbook and values issues.

For public transportation projects, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has given us another metric to use as a pocketbook issue.  The NRDC study, entitled “Fighting Oil Addiction: Ranking States Oil Vulnerability and Solutions for Change,” ranked each state on an income-to-gas-price ratio (see CNN report).  Mississippi topped the list as the most vulnerable to spikes in gas prices as residents spent 9.14%, or on average $2,702, of their income on gas last year. 

Exhibit 1 below shows average gas prices throughout the United States in 2008.

24-month gas pricesOur addiction to foreign sources of oil also presents a good “values” message in support of public transportation projects.  Values messages are incredibly effective and, for many voters, values take precedence over any other political issues.  There’s no better example of this than the presidential election of 2004.  Many people may not have agreed with George Bush’s politics but they knew what he stood for and they voted accordingly.

According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, the US transportation sector is almost entirely dependent on petroleum as an energy source and nearly two-thirds of petroleum consumption in this country is imported.  In fact, petroleum products constituted $380 billion, or 56%, of our trade deficit in 2008.  Exhibit 2 below shows the trade deficit and the relative impact of petroleum from January 1998 – January 2009.


Therefore, our addiction to oil could also be framed as a values choice between short-term investments in public transportation versus the long-term consequences of our dependency on foreign oil.  When framed that way, that should be another easy choice for people to make.

Owen Eagan is senior vice president for transportation, The Saint Consulting Group, email, phone


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