Providence, R.I. -- This week, Governor Lincoln Chafee signed into law a bill (S2186, H7261) to set up a Petroleum Savings & Independence Advisory Commission to study and reduce Rhode Island’s reliance on petroleum, with petroleum use reduction targets set at 30% less by 2030 and 50% by 2050.
"Rhode Island's dependence on petroleum puts our environment, economy, health, and security at risk," said Channing Jones, associate with advocacy group Environment Rhode Island. "It's tremendous news that our state is buckling down to figure out how we can be burning less of it."
Petroleum dependence raises serious environmental and health concerns - petroleum combustion remains a major source of smog, which is linked to respiratory problems such as asthma, and it produces more global warming pollution than any other fuel source. With ever-rising petroleum prices, billions of dollars also leave Rhode Island every year to multinational oil companies and oil producing countries.
"[Petroleum] poses serious challenges for our economy and our national security, contaminates our air and water, and is a major source of global warming pollution," said Abigail Anthony, Rhode Island director of Environment Northeast. "Rhode Island should advance a vision of a sustainable and affordable transportation system that will dramatically reduce air pollution and its harmful health effects, and gain meaningful energy independence."
In Rhode Island, petroleum fuels are used to power vehicles and, along with natural gas, to heat buildings. The Petroleum Savings & Independence Advisory Commission will include stakeholders and experts in energy, transportation, and environmental protection.
The Commission will, in addition to researching the consequences of Rhode Island's petroleum dependence, create a plan for Rhode Island to reduce its petroleum use from 2007 levels 30% by 2030 and 50% by 2050. The bill was endorsed by the Environment Council of Rhode Island, the statewide Coalition for Transportation Choices, and the Oil Heat Institute.
"We can reach this bill's proposed long-term targets by beginning to enact policies now to increase the efficiency of our cars and buildings, shift us to cleaner, locally produced alternative energy sources, and promote transportation alternatives such as buses, trains, biking, and electric vehicles," added Jones.
At committee hearings for the legislation, statements in support of the bill were offered by Environment Rhode Island, Environment Northeast, the Coalition for Transportation Choices, the Sierra Club of Rhode Island, the Audubon Society of Rhode Island, Clean Water Action, the Rhode Island State Nurses Association, the American Lung Association of Rhode Island, Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships, the Oil Heat Institute, and members of the academic and scientific community.
The final version of the legislation passed the Senate on May 30 (38 to 0) and the House Of Representatives on June 11 (64 to 3) before being transmitted to the Governor's desk. The bill was signed into law on Tuesday.
"Rhode Island needs to move forward with a comprehensive plan to cut its petroleum use in the long term," said Jones. "This historic bill will get us on track now toward tackling our petroleum dependence in an effective, coordinated, informed way, cutting smog and greenhouse gas emissions, and giving a boost to Rhode Island's economy."