Petroleum has been a key ingredient in fostering prosperity in the 20th century. It should continue to be the dominant fuel far into the future-because it is efficient, makes economic sense, and can be produced and used in an environmentally safe way.
The petroleum industry is taking the lead to improve its environmental performance. The STEP Program-Strategies for Today's Environmental Partnershipis designed to help the industry achieve the goals it set in 1990 when 11 guiding environmental principles became part of the American Petroleum Institute's bylaws. The aims of the program are preventing pollution, promoting safe operating practices, addressing community concerns, maintaining crisis readiness, reducing product hazards, and achieving reasonable government policies.
The industry's commitment ranges from recycling used oil to supporting the Marine Spill Response Corporation to upgrading industry standards-quipment specifications, recommended practices, and guidelines-to include environmental safeguards. As a result, both the environment and the industry benefit.
In the United States, the petroleum industry, the executive branch of the federal government, the Congress and the public &l generally agree on the importance of improving environmental performance. This is not an issue. It is a shared commitment.
But the steps that need to be taken to achieve continued improvement in environmental quality are still a matter of debate among parties with widely divergent viewpoints.
The Challenge: Environmentalists Urge Reducing Oil Use Despite continuing environmentai progress, some policymakers and environmentalists take the extreme view that there is no way to sufficiently mitigate the environmental problems associated with the production, transportation, and use of fossil fuels, particularly oil. They assert that only by forcing a reduction in the use of fossil fuels can environmental progress be made. Here are a few quotes that illustrate this mindset: From the executive director of Greenpeace: ‘We’re now talking about an oil-free future. ... The oil industry is a sunset industry. .. .' From the president of the Worldwatch Institute: ‘If the environmental revolution suceeds, it will be based on a shift away from fossil fuels. We eventually have to phase out fossil fuels. .. .’ And from the vice president of the United States: ‘It ought to be possible to establish a coordinated global program to accomplish the strategic goal of completely eliminating the internal combustion engine over, say, a 25-year period.’ The environmental community has been effective in promoting this viewpoint. While public opinion polling shows that the American public views the petroleum industr