Hurricane Harvey highlights our dangerous dependence on oil

In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, the most important thing is to ensure that those in its direct path are safe and have the help they need. We must work together to offer whatever support we can so the people impacted can return home and begin rebuilding their lives.

However, this storm is going to have an impact on the rest of the country as well.


Namely, higher gas prices for Americans in every state.


Areas hit by Hurricane Harvey are home to a significant number of oil refineries and, so far, as much as 16 percent of America’s refining capacity is offline. As a result, gasoline futures—the business contracts that determine the price of gasoline—have already spiked to higher levels than we’ve seen in the past two years. In the coming days, those futures will translate into higher gas prices for you and your family at the pump as gasoline becomes harder to come by. We won’t know exactly how high gas prices will go in the aftermath of Harvey, but after other hurricanes like Katrina, Rita, Ike, and Isaac, prices went up as much 80 cents per gallon. And because of oil’s monopoly on the transportation sector, Americans will have to pay whatever price is being charged at the pump.

Well, not every American— just check out what David, a Fuel Freedom Fighter from Houston (stay safe and dry David!) emailed us:

“During the hoarding of gas yesterday in advance of hurricane Harvey, gasoline supplies ran out and prices have risen. But there is plenty of E85. Long live flex-fuel vehicles!! Living right!!”

People like David, as well as the proud owners of the other 26.8 million alternative fuel vehicles in the United States, will not be impacted as harshly by the coming spike in gasoline prices because they have other options.

In a world with fuel choice, that would be everyone’s reality. When the price of gasoline/oil jumps—whether from a natural disaster, or a terrorist attack, or even the antics of a drunk stockbroker—people could just switch to a different, cheaper fuel instead of being forced to pay for the only fuel (gasoline) that can power their car or truck.

For now, we should all focus on doing everything we can to help the people in Texas. But once the floodwaters recede and things return to normal, let’s remember the dangers of relying on a single fuel source and redouble our effort to ensure that in the future, all Americans will have access to more fuel choices.


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