This week, the United Nations called upon the global community to curb fossil fuel usage now or risk irreversible environmental damage in 2100. But with oil prices falling to a four-year low in the United States, any urgency may be voided by the absolute excitement over cheap gas.
Prices at pumps across the country dipped below $3 a gallon, while the current price for Brent crude, the reference for crude oil trading, fell to $82 a barrel in the United States on Tuesday. The plunge comes after Saudi Arabia unexpectedly cut its export prices to the United States, and follows a global trend that has seen oil prices drop 25 percent since June, according to Reuters.
The price drop comes just days after the UN declared that fossil fuel emissions must drop to zero by the end of the century in order to keep global temperatures in check. These low oil prices may undermine the message from the UN’s climate panel, Anthony Perl, a political scientist from Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, said. He studies the intersection of transportation and the environment in countries like the U.S. and Canada.
“I don’t think people will see the urgency of dealing with fossil fuels today,” Perl said. Instead, he explained, people may choose to fill up their cars and burn fuel while the costs are low. Falling oil prices may also deter businesses from switching to energy-saving technology, as a 2006 study in the Energy Journal suggested. Saving several pennies at the pump, Perl said, may tempt Americans away from actions that can lead to a sustainable, post-carbon future.