Administration Goes Full-Bore After Fuel Cells
The Bush Administration announced its intention to abandon
pursuit of improvements in the efficiency of gasoline engines
in favor of fuel-cell technology. The bad part is, such technology
won't be practical for many years, perhaps a decade or more.
In the meantime, we are left with the same old inefficient
gas engines burning petroleum, mucking up the environment,
and making us beholden to hostile entities in the Middle East.
The naive analysis of this is that George isn't thinking things
through as usual. The cynical analysis is that this malarkey
about fuel cells is a smoke-screen designed to keep us dependent
on ever-increasing amounts of oil for the next twenty or thirty
I have always had serious doubts that there aren't improvements
to gas engines that could be quickly implemented, as well
as policies that could be implemented to make optimum use
of the technology we currently possess. Mr. Bush's new policy
of eschewing short-term fixes in favor of long-term solutions
might sound good from the podium, but the long-term is a long
way off. I'm all for fuel-cell technology, but I don't think
we can endure the status quo while waiting a decade or more
for them. This is what I would consider a worthwhile short-term
1. Discourage the continued proliferation of sport-utility
vehicles. Since CAFE went into effect, the US automobile
industry has been fighting tooth and nail to not have to work
toward increasing gas mileage. The latest manifestation of
this struggle between industry and the regulators is the encouragement
of the use of sport-utility vehicles as passenger vehicles.
This is a scandalous waste of resources and a poke in the
eye to those who would protect the environment and ensure
our national security by reducing our dependence on foreign
oil. I would, if I were President, push to make CAFE apply
equally to SUV's, and consider requiring drivers of SUV's
above two and a half tons curb weight to obtain a commercial
driver's license (CDL) to continue driving such vehicles.
Anyone who drives something the size of a school bus should
be tested and licensed appropriately.
2. Subsidize efficiency. Why throw money at auto
manufacturers so they can pretend to develop fuel-efficiency
technology while pushing ever-larger monster trucks to the
car-buying public? I propose that the Department of Transportation
provide rebates, direct to the buyer, to anyone would buy
a new car that reflects common sense. This rebate would be
progressive; the more efficient your new car, the more money
you get back. For example, if your new car gets at least 30
MPG, you get a modest check, say, for $500. If it gets 40
MPG, you get a bigger check. This way, demand is created for
such vehicles, which already exist, which will, if
manufacturers want to make money, be met. Nothing talks louder
in America than money.
3. Penalize wastefulness. Other countries encourage
conservation with high excise taxes on gasoline. We do it
by passing unenforceable laws like CAFE that the automobile
industry screams about, saying, "we can't sell small cars
and make money." Well, to an extent, they are right. If the
best the Big Three can do is the Chevy Cavalier, why shouldn't
you go out and buy a really huge monster truck if gas is only
a buck a gallon? Hell, milk and bottled water cost more than
unleaded gasoline in the USA. Why?
Typical car in Great Britain: Ford Escort, 5-spd. trans,
1.2 liter, 45 MPG.
Typical car in USA: Ford Explorer, auto trans, 5.0 liter,
15 MPG (maybe).
Source: Institute for Off The Cuff Statistics
Do any of you have any idea how much money the federal government
spends ensuring the world's oil supply is secure? Let's see,
the Defense Department spends $300,000,000,000.00+ annually;
how much of that is going to ensure the Persian Gulf is safe
from Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida? Whatever that figure is,
you can bet not one red cent is reflected in the price of
Of course, this goes right over the head of most conservatives,
such as our incredibly dense pResident. They'd rather make
overtures, propose the automotive equivalent of National Missile
Defense, while preserving the status quo. In that case, I
hope we're ready for the next attempt at terrorism within
our borders, because as long as we remain dependent on Middle
East oil, we will continue to bankroll people like Osama bin
Laden whether we intend to or not.
publishes the independent center-left webzine Way
Too Much Sense.