Where is the Leadership In Energy Policy?

In the United States, fuel efficiency standards have not been raised for passenger cars since 1985. That's 21 years!

By Letter to the Editor
Published October 20, 2006

Americans like Canada, as well we should. Our neighbors to the north, and for that matter to the south, are the number one and two suppliers of the oil we import. We use 40 percent of that imported oil towards our transportation to power our gas guzzling cars and trucks.

But why are our cars and trucks so gas needy? The fuel efficiency standards have not been raised for passenger cars since 1985. That's 21 years! What happened? Currently the Bush administration wants to change the method of calculating energy efficacy, by weight, thereby allowing the auto industry to manipulate the standards and lessening their stringency.

This past May, ten states sued the Federal Government because of the low mileage requirements for SUVs and pick up trucks. Why? Is it because Texas is the largest oil producing state, or the Bush Republicans are so tight with the Saudi ruling family? Who gains by making our fuel efficiency standards lower? Where is our collective will?

I have lived through several energy crises. I even believed that one, in the 1980s, would result in a change to how we fueled our cars and heated our homes. Anyone remember oil shale? We spend $50+ billion per year on imported oil, the largest single element of our trade deficit. The total budget at the Department of Energy for renewable energy research and development technologies last year was just $416 million.

Each time there is serious discussion about changing our dependence on politically problematic nations that threaten our national security and drain our economy OPEC plays with the supply and or prices. Again this week OPEC is reducing its output because prices have fallen from a high of $78.+ to $59.+ per barrel.

America accounts for a full one quarter of the world oil consumption. Have you heard of the Hubbert's Peak theory? Simplified it says we are going to run out of oil at the rate we are using it up. Charles Maxwell, a senior oil analyst with 50 years of experience, supplies the following frightening usage details in his interview in Barron's (10/09/2006):

In 1930 we found 10 billion new barrels of oil in the world and we used 1.5 billion. We reached a peak in 1964 when we found 48 billion barrels and used approximately 12 billion. In 1988, we found 23 billion barrels and used 23 billion barrels. That was the crossover when we started finding less than we were using. In 2005, we found about 5 billion to 6 billion and we used 30 billion.

There is enough coal in America to fuel our economy for the next 200+ years. Oh no you say, environmentally unsound. Well, as the proverbial saying goes, "if we can put a man on the moon, create contraception, decode the genome," we can solve the issues around cleaning up from coal emission both the carbon dioxide and the mercury. We just need leadership to inspire the collective will along with American ingenuity.

I want to spend our tax dollars on home-grown solutions. Why not use our strengths to retrofitting utilities with flue gas scrubbers, make catalytic converters, and fund research to convert coal energy to fuel sources that power our transportation system through direct subsidy and tax incentives? Where is the leadership?

Linda Mandel,
NYC Developer

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By sean (registered) | Posted October 27, 2006 at 17:11:04

What about incentives to homeowners for acheiving efficiency? Some already exist, but we need them to be larger and easier to obtain. I'm talking about subsidizing solar panels (instead of subsidizing the auto industry) and encouraging people to beef up the insulation in their homes instead of sending our energy usage "through the roof". Incentives to reduce water consumption would also be beneficial to all, because it requires a LOT of energy to process the 4 litres that gets flushed down the toilet when people want to dispose of a single dirty kleenex. I want to collect rainwater to use in the toilets in my home (http://www.hammerboard.ca/viewtopic.php?t=20), but research tells me that it's against bylaws to have water stored above ground level.

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