Fuels Errand: Gen. Wesley Clark Wants Country Of Origin Labels At The Gas Pump


Sources of oil consumed in USA during 2008. Image credit:USEIA, via LabelMyFuel.org

The press release of an investment firm called Growth Energy states that "...General Wesley Clark, Co-Chairman of Growth Energy, today called on the United States Congress and the White House to take action to dramatically enhance the market transparency of the nation's fuel supply by requiring a national standard of country of origin labeling (COOL) for fuel." Turns out Growth Energy an interest in corn-based ethanol. For the sake of discussion, let's assume this proposal flies. What would consumers see over and over? How would their buying habits be influenced?Canada is the largest "foreign" supplier of oil consumed in the USA, per the USEIA graphic shown, and is likely to grow in importance as a US supplier, now that the Alberta Clipper pipeline has been approved.

What US consumers would learn from "COOL" labeling is that their only chance to influence the market in a big way would be to always 'buy Canadian.' (After all, 10% ethanol is the standard formulation, regardless of where the oil comes from. Most consumers have no means to influence that number with their buying habits.)

From the press release, via Reuters:

The Label My Fuel initiative would create a COOL standard similar to requirements already in place for common consumer items, including apples, beef, cars and coffee. The goal is to help create consumer awareness of the costs and national security implications of the nation's addiction to foreign oil.

Clark also unveiled Growth Energy's labelmyfuel.com, which showcases the costs of American dependence on foreign oil, and serves to rally grassroots support for Congressional action on COOL for fuel legislation.

Clark said:

"America's dependence on foreign oil has a staggering impact on both our national and economic security. Supply disruptions and sudden price hikes have shocked the wallets and pocketbooks of everyday Americans one too many times.

"The American people deserve to know the truth about the hidden costs of oil: The neighborhood filling station doesn't pump neighborhood gas -- it pumps a product of foreign origin that costs consumers and taxpayers billions of dollars every year. It's past time for the American people to understand what our dependence on foreign oil costs our country and what they can do to help stop it."

Conclusions: "COOL" is totally un-cool - untreehugger to the max - unless we admit Canada to be American, which it is because we share a continent called North America. Investment firms steering national energy policy - no thanks for that.

Update: You asked for further explanation of my intent; so here goes.

Consider all of the countries named on that pie chart. Then, imagine yourself as an "average" US consumer - this means there's a roughly 12% chance that you are functionally illiterate and a much higher chance that you know absolutely nothing about the politics and policies of many of those nations - who's wanting to choose a gas station that is predominantly supplied by a country or two you are most comfortable with.

Canada, I'm saying, is a nation that you, the average guy, might know something about or have friends from. Odds are good you'll recall that Canada's been a steady US ally and frequent business partner and that Canada is the only nation with which we share the world's largest source of of fresh water, the Great Lakes.

On that basis, I'm saying Canadian gas will get strong US customer preference. For the others, I believe it's really going to be a random walk.

Restating somewhat, consumers will be fickle and volatile about their country peferences. If price is comparable, Canada will be the most likely tie-breaker. That drives the overall fuel market toward Alberta Tar Sands, which has a negative climate influence.

Hope this helps.

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Tags: Canada | Tar Sands