Sunday, October 24, 2004

In case you didn't notice, oil has approached $55 a barrel. This price peak is that much more meaningful given the Saudi prince's assurance to Bush (see Woodward's book) that he would do all he could to get oil prices down well before the election. If indeed he is doing all he can, what does that say about supply & demand issues concerning oil? It stands to reason the Saudi spigots are open at full blast and yet demand still swamps supply.

Such an imbalance does not bode well for future energy prices. Another administration -- which regularly makes a practice of dealing in facts and using logic and reason to set policy -- would already be acting on this predicament. But not this one. Our current faith-based president lives in the world of fantasy and denial. Meanwhile, Rome burns (fossil fuel).

You'd think at the very least conservation would be urged, particularly since as he repeatedly stresses we are in "war time" and typically when the nation has been at war, the sitting president has encouraged the public to conserve resources. But not Bush/Cheney. The sacrificing of lives is acceptable, but not sacrificing at the gas pump or in the wallet (tax breaks).

Back to the supply/demand issue with energy, here are a few facts concerning SUV use. For those who own one (two? three??), perhaps the following will be an eye-opener:

* Under the United States' current automobile classification system, in effect since the 1970s, new Sports Utility Vehicles, along with pickup trucks and minivans, are categorized as light trucks. As a result, SUVs are allowed to maintain far weaker fuel-efficiency standards than cars. According to federal law, SUVs are permitted to have an average gas mileage of 20.7 miles per gallon. In contrast, cars are required to maintain an average of 27.5 miles per gallon.

* The rule that allows SUVs, light trucks, to average 7 miles less per gallon than regular cars is a holdover from the Ford Administration. And while it was designed with good intentions–to aid America's farmers during the 1970s oil embargo–the embargo ended decades ago and farmers now receive plenty of subsidies. SUVs and light trucks now amount to more than half of all new vehicles sold, with SUVs making up nearly a third of this market.

* In perhaps the most ludicrous legislative loophole for SUVs, SUVs (or other vehicles, perhaps tanks,) that weigh over 8,500 pounds are completely exempt from federal fuel economy standards! Thus, SUVs that weigh over 8,500 pounds, such as the the Ford Excursion and the Hummer, are exempt from all fuel efficiency regulation and can be as wasteful as the manufacturers and former oil industry executives, now government officials, find profitable.

* Besides increased fuel consumption and carbon emissions, induced by lackluster regulation of SUVs' gas mileage, SUVs also contribute to increased pollution. In fact, SUVs are allowed to contribute up to 5.5 times as many smog-causing pollutants into the atmosphere as standard cars. Even as the automobile industry made marked progress improving the fuel–efficiency of cars in the late–1980s and early–1990s, the proliferation of SUVs with poor fuel economies is eroding this progress. Government policies allow SUV manufactures to produce SUVs that are not fuel efficient and, consequently, remove the incentive for innovation on the part of auto manufacturers.

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