Ban Gasoline

In a world with a single, fungible energy market, talk of U.S. energy independence (whatever that means) is a fantasy, and grousing about imported oil is little better. But there is a non-fantastic way to reduce energy vulnerability: a multinational ban on gasoline.

Specifically, America should propose an international treaty whose signatories would agree to eliminate gasoline from their transportation systems by a date certain—say, in 2050.

Why focus on gas in particular? Because gasoline is where the world’s petrogarchs have us by the short hairs. The electrical grid and many industrial users can juggle fuel sources; when oil prices rise, they can typically switch to methane or coal. But the transportation sector is 94 percent dependent on oil. The “oil weapon,” for that reason, is really mainly a gasoline weapon.

Replacing gas would take a few decades, but it is doable. If outright elimination seems a stretch, remember: stepwise reductions would also help. Indeed, for the United States simply to make the offer of a gasoline treaty would, at a stroke, focus the energy-security debate where it belongs.

Next idea: Actually, Fossil Fuels Are Here to Stay

Presented by

Jonathan Rauch is an Atlantic contributing editor and guest scholar at the Brookings Institution.

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