Fuel Economy - Up the MPG!

One of the environmental issues near to my heart is fuel economy. Particularly after a short internship in the House and researching background information for my thesis, I became very interested in the decades-long lack of federal action to increase fuel economy.

Low fuel economy hurts consumers, forcing them to fill up their vehicles more often. I'm sure that most folks never really thought much about fuel economy, that is, until gasoline prices broke $3/gallon and fuel costs started to affect the family budget. Now, people care and are clamoring for solutions.

Low fuel economy contributes to our oil dependence--which continues to be a major national security issue for our country. The more oil we use to power our vehicles, the more exploring and drilling we have to do in our own backyards or import from abroad (which we do the most).

And then, there is global warming. Raising fuel economy standards will reduce the amount of global warming pollution that is emitted by vehicles. Generally, for every gallon of gasoline that is consumed, about 24 pounds of global warming pollution is emitted (during the full life-cycle). With more efficient vehicles, folks can travel using less fuel--resulting in reduced oil consumption, global warming emissions, and fill-up frequency.

Fuel economy standards governing the vehicles on America's road haven't been substantially changed in 32 years (see note later about light trucks). That's right, 32 years. Congress, back in 1975--in reaction to the Arab Oil Embargo--passed the Energy Policy and Conservation Act which set standards governing the fuel economy of passenger vehicles. Congress sought to double the efficiency of the American fleet by 1985, which they did. But no increase has been mandated since that time--except for a mere 1.5 mpg increase for light duty trucks. As a result, the average fuel economy of the American fleet has languished since the late 1980s and actually dipped a few points as a result of loopholes (what's a law without a loophole?) and the influx of light duty vehicles (SUVs, pickups, etc) that were governed by lower standards.

But now, the tide is changing. Our oil dependence was highlighted by our President, an oil man, and in the past few weeks and months, diverse groups have acknowledged the need for increased fuel economy standards. As the holiday break for Congress approaches, it becomes clear that D-day on fuel economy is neigh.

The 2007 Energy Bill contains an agreement that will increase the fuel economy of the U.S. fleet to 35 mpg by 2020. Assuming that the Senate renegotiates the "controversial" tax provisions out of the bill (of course, we shouldn't increase taxes for the oil companies--they've just had record profits!), both chambers of Congress are set to pass the Energy Bill, and thereby the fuel economy provisions. One can only imagine what our unfortunate president will do...

I've had my fingers crossed for the past few weeks regarding this bill and I continue to pray that Congress and the White House will do the right thing and finally, increase fuel economy.

[Hippo Q. quietly steps down from her soap box.]


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Hippo Q. said...

Wow, I just approved a comment that contains a link to some random site selling a product that's supposed to increase mpg. whatever.

I think I was taken in by the statement "hybrids run on gasoline, which is not an alternative to gasoline no matter."

Of course, hybrids run on gasoline, but hybrid technology is one of many useful advanced and conventional technologies that can be used to increase the fuel economy of the American fleet. Hybrid technology still powers petroleum fuel vehicles, but they ensure that less fuel is used per mile traveled.