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NRDC vehicles director endorses plug-in hybrids

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  • Felix Kramer
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 30, 2006

      From Gas Crisis To Cure
      Deron Lovaas and Gal Luft
      April 27, 2006

      Deron Lovaas is the vehicles campaign director
      for the Natural Resources Defense Council. Dr.
      Gal Luft is executive director of the Washington,
      D.C.-based Institute for the Analysis of Global Security .

      With oil trading near $75 a barrel, one can only
      wonder how much higher prices might get should
      this year's hurricane season be as lethal as last
      year's, should a full-blown civil war erupt in
      Nigeria or Iraq, should terrorists attack a Saudi
      facility or should a standoff with Iran results
      in a disruption in oil shipments through the
      Strait of Hormuz. Each of these scenarios could
      take oil prices to the three-digit domain with
      profound implications for the U.S. economy and the world economy at large.

      As it is, the U.S. economy is
      bleeding—three-quarters of a billion dollars
      leave our country each day in exchange for
      imported oil. That's more than $450,000 a minute.

      Worse, a portion of the money ends up in the
      coffers of undemocratic, unstable and/or hostile
      regimes, which doesn't add to our ability to win
      the war on terrorism. At the same time the U.S.
      finds itself embroiled in a potentially
      aggressive competition with emerging Asian powers
      like China over access to energy resources.

      The best account of the damaging impact energy
      has on U.S. foreign policy came from America's
      top diplomat, Secretary of State Condoleezza
      Rice, who recently told the Senate: "We do have
      to do something about the energy problem. I can
      tell you that nothing has really taken me aback
      more, as Secretary of State, than the way that
      the politics of energy is warping diplomacy
      around the world. It has given extraordinary
      power to some states that are using that power in
      not-very-good ways for the international system,
      states that would otherwise have very little power"

      This reality has not escaped the While House. In
      his State of the Union, President George W. Bush
      took a significant first step by admitting that
      America's oil addiction looms as one of the most
      serious challenges of our time. He departed from
      the traditional position that the U.S. can drill
      its way out of its oil predicament, suggesting
      that we should embrace technologies that will cut
      our oil consumption—like driving next generation
      cars and using clean-burning non-petroleum fuels.
      Now it’s time for Congress to follow up on the president's words.

      A significant step in putting America on the road
      to energy security is a proposal that is
      gathering momentum in both houses of Congress,
      with broad bipartisan support, including three
      likely 2008 presidential candidates: Senators
      Evan Bayh, Sam Brownback and Hillary Clinton. The
      companion bills, Vehicles and Fuel Choices for
      American Security Act (S. 2025 and H.R. 4409),
      start with specific ends in mind. They establish
      targets for saving oil—as opposed to burning
      it—beginning with a 2.5 million barrel a day
      reduction in demand within 10 years, which is
      about what we import from the Middle East today.
      The bills also assign roles and responsibilities
      to specific government agencies, and include
      deadlines and requirements to adjust the plan if
      it looks like it will fall short of the targets.

      The proposed legislation, if enacted, would take
      three strides toward energy security. It would
      lead to far more efficient use of oil, give
      consumers more vehicle and fuel choices, and
      promote investments in mass transit programs.

      The first step, squeezing waste out of our
      economy, is vital and doable, particularly in the
      transportation sector—which accounts for
      two-thirds of U.S. oil demand and is 97 percent
      oil-dependent. Take, for example, tires on new
      cars. They are designed to be "low-rolling
      resistant" which increases fuel-efficiency.
      Automakers make them so in order to comply with
      federal fuel-economy standards. Yet there are no
      standards for replacement tires.

      Replacement tires also don't come with
      fuel-efficiency labels to allow
      comparison-shopping by conscientious consumers.
      Simply requiring fuel-efficiency standards for
      replacement tires would reduce gasoline
      consumption by as much as 3 percent. And there
      are many other small savings that, if added up,
      will reduce our oil bill to the tune of billions.

      The second step is to increase fuel choice by
      moving the country en masse toward plug-in
      hybrids and flexible-fuel vehicles. In Brazil,
      most drivers can pull up to pumps that offer
      sugarcane-derived ethanol or a mixture of
      gasoline and ethanol. In the U.S., however, most
      motorists aren't even aware of the availability
      of ethanol. And those who drive such
      flexible-fuel vehicles have trouble finding
      stations that offer alternative fuels.

      Domestically produced electricity can also be
      used as a fuel. Plug-in hybrids which, unlike
      standard hybrids, can draw charge not only from
      the engine and captured braking energy, but also
      from America's electrical grid, are particularly
      appealing since only 2 percent of U.S.
      electricity is generated from oil. If, for
      example, by 2025, all cars on the road are
      flexible fuel hybrids and half of the hybrids are
      plug-ins, U.S. oil imports could drop by over 10
      million barrels per day, which is about what we import today.

      The final step is to boost transit investments.
      The use of public transportation now saves us
      almost 125,000 barrels of oil a day. But if we
      increased reliance on public transportation to,
      say, the level of our neighbors in Canada, we
      would save more oil than we import from Saudi Arabia every six months.

      An America unshackled to foreign oil no longer
      needs to be a pipedream. And the good news is
      that there is no need to wait for technological
      breakthroughs, invest billions in research and
      development or embark on a massive infrastructure
      change. The technology and know-how, the keys to
      our liberation, already are sitting on the shelf.
      What is needed is for our leaders in Washington
      to grasp those keys and begin setting America free.

      -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --
      Felix Kramer fkramer@...
      Founder California Cars Initiative
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