If we learned anything from the horrific oil spill spreading through the Gulf of Mexico, or the other oil disasters, Santa Barbara in 1969 and Alaska’s Exxon Valdez in 1989, it is the desperate need for the United States to make some drastic changes.

The U.S. needs to focus its efforts on trying to obtain alternative natural sources of fuel. These changes will increase our competitiveness in the international community and quickly help this country achieve its highest potential by attaining true oil independence.

By producing alternative sources of fuel, we can help reduce the emission of greenhouse gases, the cause of global warming. The gas that burns every time someone turns on his or her car is a major contributor to this problem.

There are many other benefits to adopting a clean energy reform policy: we can boost our economy by saving the billions of dollars that we are so used to spending on imported petroleum, we can reduce the risk of spills and accidents that arise with every gallon of gas we pump, and finally, we can help boost our gross domestic product by endorsing industries that increase the production of alternative fuels.

Currently, the U.S. spends about $1 billion dollars per day on imported oil instead of investing that capital domestically where we need it most. One of our biggest sources of imported oil is Saudi Arabia. Therefore, if we do not reduce our demand for oil, we will continue to financially support one of the most unstable and dangerous regimes in the world. And although we do not trade with Iran, that country still benefits from our consumption of fuel from the Persian Gulf.

Currently the demand for oil is high. The global appetite for oil is expected to continue to rise substantially. Supply, on the other hand, is stagnant and ultimately limited; many experts believe that production is reaching its peak. The divergence of supply and demand will only lead to higher oil prices in the future.

Not all is lost. Even though oil is in short supply, the supply of new and promising alternative energy ideas is not. There have been many proposals for obtaining alternative fuels. The Pickens Plan, which predicts that if we reduce our demand for oil and focus on taking some steps to obtaining alternative fuels now, we can replace more than one-third of our foreign oil imports within the next 10 years, is one. All we need to do is try to change our oil dependency habits.

We can start by reducing our demand for oil. Less than three percent of electricity in the U.S. is generated by oil, while most oil is consumed for transportation. We can combat this problem by using alternative modes of transportation and investing in more energy-efficient cars and trucks like those with advanced hybrid technology. We could even start by just buying better tires. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, if we just use the technology we have today, we can save about 2.5 million barrels of oil each day. It is all about collective action, if each one of us does our part we can help save this nation from the dangerous economic and political risks that come from our dependence on foreign oil.

However, this is not to ignore the fact that most of the power is in the hands of wealthy politicians. In addition to changing our own habits, we need to push our members of Congress to support some of the clean energy reform policies needed to establish an independent and self-sufficient state.

Nesma Tawil is a second-year political science major. She can be reached at ntawil@uci.edu.

In this article