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Recent oil tragedy should spark new interest in energy options

In his 2006 State of the Union address, George W. Bush remarked, “America is addicted to oil.” Since then, there have been strides in alternative energy, but the United States still relies on fossil fuels (oil, coal and natural gas) for more than 85 percent of the energy it consumes, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Oil alone supplies 40 percent of the United States’ energy demand.

On April 20, an explosion on a BP oil rig killed 11 workers. The rig sank two days later and oil began spilling into the Gulf of Mexico.

Louisiana’s wetlands, still fragile and reeling from Hurricane Katrina, have already begun to be affected, and other states such as Mississippi and Alabama will likely see oil on their shores soon. While work is under way to stop the spill, company officials have said that a permanent solution could take up to three months.

Meanwhile, oil continues to leak.

This accident is a tragic reminder of the costs such sources of energy can have, and it comes at a bad time for proponents of offshore drilling — President Obama recently ended a moratorium on offshore drilling in certain areas. Such policies will certainly be receiving stricter scrutiny.

Our society’s dependence on oil cannot be shaken overnight. The infrastructure we have in place now relies heavily on oil and other fossil fuels for energy. It will be expensive and time-consuming to overhaul these systems — they are powerful, both politically and financially.

But accidents like these, which threaten peoples’ livelihoods, damage fragile ecosystems, necessitate costly clean-ups and, in this case, have an immediate human cost should shake us from our complacency. We will not be able to rely on oil forever, and the sooner we turn to other options, the better.

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