Recently, the 350- by 75-foot oil barge, Millicoma, ran aground on the North Coast. Accidents like these happen more often than we would like to admit. If we were less reliant on fossil fuels, these accidents would be less frequent.

The Millicoma was being towed in tandem with another barge when its towing cable snapped. The tug was moving these barges across the dangerous Columbia River bar in rough weather. Fred Felleman of Ocean Advocates in Seattle accurately noted that a tug cannot reconnect with a loose barge if it's towing another vessel. In these dangerous conditions it seems that more precautions should have been taken.

According to Sam Sacco of Foss Maritime, the cargo holds were empty, as if there were no threat of anything being spilled. However, there was a threat of spilling the 3,000 to 5,000 gallons of gasoline on board. If that had leaked, the National Response Corp. and Marine Spill Response Corp. would have a good-sized clean-up job on their hands.

In addition to increased safety precautions, there are other ways to make these kinds of accidents less frequent. If we were less dependent on fossil fuels, we would have fewer gallons of fossil fuels to move from one place to another. With a potential spill so close to home, many Oregonians are reminded of why we are fighting so hard to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels.

There are easy ways for us to significantly reduce our decency on fossil fuels. For example, right now the efficiency of our cars and trucks is at a 20-year low, despite the fact that the National Academy of Science concluded that we could easily increase vehicle efficiency to 40 mpg in 10 years with existing technology. Doing so would save more oil than America imports from the Persian Gulf and would get from drilling the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge combined.

In addition to wasting fuel on the road, we waste our limited supply of fossil fuels to produce a vast amount of electricity for our homes, businesses and industries. We do this despite the fact that with the wind, solar, and geothermal potential that we have in the United States, we could provide electricity to our entire country, year after year, and still have electricity left to sell to other countries.

We should support the implementation of renewable electricity sources, and energy efficiency standards to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels. During a time of exploding oil refineries and crashing oil barges, are looking towards a new energy future of safer alternatives to dangers of fossil fuels.

Erin Cianchette