It’s August recess, so things are fairly quiet here in DC. Things are less quiet in the petroleum world, particularly with the leak and shutdown of BP’s Prudhoe Bay pipeline (see our statement here). Although it’s eight percent of our domestic production, the 400,000 barrels’ worth of daily production BP has shut down could easily be replaced just by increasing the fuel economy of our cars and trucks. The two fuel economy proposals I’ve talked about in previous blogs—the Ten-in-Ten bill and the Boehlert-Markey bill—would save that much oil by 2014 if passed. The recently introduced Obama-Lugar-Biden Fuel Economy Reform Act, which would increase car and truck fuel economy standards four percent each year, would also save 400,000 barrels per day of oil by 2014. Unlike Prudhoe Bay or any other oil field, the benefits of increasing fuel economy continue to grow over time as newer, more efficient vehicles replace older ones.
It was just about this time last year that the president signed into law landmark energy legislation, which contained no Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) increase. Given that oil and gasoline prices and consumption have gone up compared with last year, the bill hasn’t been particularly successful in reducing our oil dependence, though that is no surprise given its contents. One of the few provisions dealing with fuel economy was a requirement that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) do a study on the options for reducing fuel consumption. NHTSA indeed released its report, but it’s a stretch to call it a study—the agency didn’t quantify the potential benefits of increasing fuel economy standards for cars, or of further increasing standards for light trucks and SUVs beyond the meager increases in light-truck fuel economy it had already announced earlier this year.
Based on the lack of detail in the NHTSA report, one gets to the conclusion that Congress itself needs to act to increase fuel economy. NHTSA continues to be unwilling to take advantage of the technologies available today to reduce fuel economy, despite the urgency of reducing our oil dependence. You can take a look at the report here (.pdf), but if you’re hoping to find new research, or even an overview of the existing studies on fuel economy potential, you’re going to be disappointed. If you want a rehash of the administration’s positions on fuel economy, along with an extremely narrow and biased review of the National Academy’s 2002 study, then you’re in luck.
Right now, every member of the House of Representatives, and a third of the Senate, is canvassing his or her district working to get reelected in November. They’ll be looking to hear from you, their constituents, about the issues that are important to you, so sent them a message encouraging them to support the Boehlert-Markey bill in the House or the Ten-in-Ten bill and the Obama-Lugar-Biden bill in the Senate. Let them know you expect real action to reduce our oil dependence.
Posted by: Eli