NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

FRANCE HAS GAS

October 11, 2004

The oil shocks of the 1970s spurred France to develop alternative fuels; as a result, the country's oil use has declined over 30 years, compared the United States. Consequently, the United States could learn a lesson or two on energy independence from France, according to the New York Times.

For a brief time after the oil embargo, the United States concentrated on energy conservation by producing more efficient cars, appliances and better insulation for homes. But now those efforts have taken low priority, even though oil is up to $50 a barrel, says the Times. In contrast:

  • Between 1973 and 2003, oil consumption in France declined 10 percent, while in the United States it rose 16 percent.
  • About 80 percent of France's energy is generated from nuclear power, compared to only 20 percent in the United States.
  • Two-thirds of cars in France use diesel engines, which consume 30 percent less fuel than standard gasoline engines.
  • Gas taxes in France amount to $3.75 per gallon, which brings the total price of gas per gallon to $5.00

For a brief time after the oil embargo, the United States concentrated on energy conservation by producing more efficient cars, appliances and better insulation for homes, but now those efforts have taken low priority, even though oil is up to $50 a barrel.

Observers note the difference in cultures, especially American's greater preference for the right to be mobile. Moreover, Americans disapprove of nuclear energy due to safety concerns, even though a meltdown is even less likely today, say experts. Also, higher gas taxes (which are now at about 41 cents per gallon) are politically unpopular.

Source: Jad Mouawad, "Slow Learner on Energy-Efficient Front," New York Times, October 5, 2004.

For NYT text (registration required): http://www.nytimes.com/2004/10/05/business/05conserve.html

 

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