Members of a Shoreline Cleanup and Assessment Team removes oil from a beach in Port Fourchon, La.--part of ongoing response efforts to minimize shoreline impacts from the Deepwater Horizon/BP oil spill, May 23, 2010. Photo: US Coast Guard via flickr.
With fingers and toes crossed, for the moment at least, it appears that BP's 'top kill' is working and the month-long gusher of oil may be coming to an end. So, how do get to a place as a nation where we don't have to go through this again, not because we continue to trust safety procedures that are going to fail at some point, but because we no longer need any oil from the Gulf of Mexico? Cool Green Science has some stats that show how easy this could be. Hint: It'll take some adjustments.Here's the lead up: In the US per person consumption of gasoline is 428 gallons per year on average, while in Europe it is 59 gallons. Yes, the average US citizen uses 6.2 times more gasoline per person per year than does the average European resident.
Moving on: The US uses 9.989 million barrels of oil per day to make gasoline (keep in mind that though a barrel contains 42 gallons of crude oil, it doesn't all go to gasoline). If we just reduced our gasoline consumption to five times that of Europe we'd knock 1.8 million barrels of oil off our daily habit.
How much oil comes from all the offshore oil wells in the Gulf of Mexico? 1.75 million barrels.
See where this is heading? By reducing gasoline consumption by 20% we can never drill in the Gulf again. That breaks down to reducing your daily driving average by 5.4 miles.
photo: D'Arcy Norman
Social, Pleasure Driving Has Doubled In Past 30 Years
As far as how to do this, Cool Green Science makes the usual suggestions--carpooling 2-3 days per week, biking to work, etc--but also presents this really interesting stat to keep in mind:
No matter how you look at it, only 20 to 30 percent of the average American's car miles are devoted to commuting to work. The biggest single chunk of travel -- nearly one-third of the total, or about 60 miles per week for the average person -- was purely for socializing and entertainment (that doesn't include trips to school and church, family business such as doctors trips, or shopping). The biggest percentage increase in travel over the past several decades has been the result of shopping trips: Our mileage there has almost doubled, and accounts for nearly 15 percent of travel.
While we may not be able to fully replicate the design patterns of pre-automobile cities, we certainly can take a cue from them as places where business, residential and commercial blend together, and a car simply isn't required on a daily basis. Lucca, Italy photo: joe via flickr.
Using Less Oil Is A Design Problem & Not With Cars Themselves
You could see that as an argument in favor of greater online shopping, but I don't think that's really the answer--even if the likes of Amazon.com might spin it that way.
Really what this stat points to is that we need to re-form the way we build our towns so that they are places where we can all live and work and shop without having to drive around in a car every day. Easier said than done, at least to start, but if there's a central reason Europeans consume so much less gasoline than Americans, it's not because they like driving any less than we do or have a radically greater sense of environmental virtue, it's because they don't have to thanks to the way their communities are structured.
More on the BP Oil Spill:
Must See Aerial Footage of BP Oil Spill Shows 'The Gulf Bleeding' (Video)
BP Gets Punked: 7 Best Oil Spill Pranks & Satires
BP Contractors and Coast Guard Prevent CBS From Filming Oil Spill Devastation
More on Car-Free Living & Walkable Communities
How to Build a Green, Car-Free Community: Vauban
6 Cities That Could Easily Be Car-Lite or Car-Free
Walk Score Ranks the Top 10 Most Walkable Cities in the US
Big Surprise: America's Fittest Cities Are Also The Most Walkable