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Fuel Efficiency Standards

Page history last edited by Ahmed Alshaibani 11 years, 5 months ago

Ahmed Alshaibani

English 1020

Jared Gorgan

November 29, 2011


Fuel Efficiency


How can a country that is so powerful in the world market be brought to its knees by a less powerful country? Energy dependence, that’s how. This is a major problem in the United States. We are too dependent on foreign oil to drive our economy. Nearly every aspect of our lives is dependent on oil we either import or drill. The cars we drive, the heat in our homes, it is all from oil. We have made it such an important part of our society that we basically can’t live without it. Of all the oil we use, the gas we pump into our cars is probably the most apparent. We use this oil as if there is an unlimited supply. Here’s the kicker, it isn’t. With the raising gas prices and dwindling supply of oil, why haven’t car manufacturers made cars that use this limited resource more efficiently? Wake up and smell the tailpipe people. We have fell behind in terms of fuel efficiency. With the supply of oil deteriorating, major changes need to be made. My goal is to analyze the reasoning for the lack of updated vehicle efficiency standards and to propose ideas on how to go about seeking a change. How much are you willing to fork over to put gas in your car? How much longer are we going to allow oil companies to take advantage of our pocket book? Change begins with the individual. Our voices need to be heard.

Oil is a necessity in the American lifestyle. We use it to produce the power that powers our homes and runs our cars. Of all the oil used in America, over fifty percent of that oil is used as gasoline to power automobiles. With such a large amount of gasoline being used by cars, why hasn’t fuel efficiency improved? Why are cars still only averaging a fuel efficiency of about 25 miles per gallon? In the early 1970’s, OPEC placed an oil embargo on the United States as a response to the United States resupplying the Israeli military, which was (and still is) fighting in Palestine (1973 Oil Crisis). This embargo led to the establishment of CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) by the US congress. The reason for these regulations was to set standards that automobile industries should aim for when producing automobiles so as to produce more fuel-efficient vehicles. Due to the Crisis, Car engineers were forced to rethink about the ways cars used gasoline. Many cars did, in turn, experience significant improvements to fuel efficiency. Here’s where the problem begins. In 1974, after the oil embargo by OPEC was lifted, oil prices dropped once again, and interest in developing more fuel-efficient cars declined. But these low prices were short lived. In 1979, following a change in the Iranian government, President Jimmy Carter ordered a cessation of Iranian imports due to an inconsistent flow of oil. As a result of doing so, oil prices skyrocketed higher that ever before (1979 Energy Crisis). This change in price resulted in another wave of improvements to fuel efficiency standards, which lasted up until the mid-980s.  In this period of time from 1973 until 1985, the average gas mileage for a car went up from around 10 miles per gallon to a whopping 25 miles per gallon (Who Killed The Electric Car). 

Due to the cessation, U.S automakers introduced many new cars to the market, which met CAFE standards. Another affect of the cessation was that oil refineries in the United States experienced an increase in revenue owing to the fact that they had to compensate for the oil that was no longer being imported from Iran. As a result of the excess oil and the production of the many fuel-efficient vehicles, the United States experienced what has come to be called the “1980’s Oil Glut” (1980’s Oil Glut). This period of time was marked by abundance in oil for the American people. All may have seemed well, until one more closely observes the affect of this oil surplus. This excess oil, in turn, lead to the lack of concern with producing fuel-efficient vehicles that met CAFE standards. For this reason, the average fuel efficiency has mad very little progress over the past 3 decades. As a matter fact, fuel efficiently, rather than increasing, has declined! How does this make any sense? The supply of oil has been decreasing, yet fuel efficiency decreases as well. Something must seriously be messed up in the minds of these car manufacturers. This is the common belief, until one looks at the big picture. Only then does one realize what a huge role the oil industry plays in the decision making of fuel-efficiency standards.

Why haven’t new fuel efficiency standards been set for automobiles? Some may argue that it’s difficult to improve this technology further with the available resources. In my opinion, that is the most fancy pile of crap I’ve ever heard. Technology for improvements to existing technologies has been available for decades. In the documentaryGashole, a recorded interview with a former shell employee recorded the employee stating that in 1946, Shell was able to break the 100 miles per gallon mark, and later achieved the 1000 miles per gallon mark in the early 1970’s (Gashole). Shell quickly realized that releasing this technology to the public would make it nearly impossible to make a profit on the already dirt-cheap gasoline at the time. In turn, Shell kept this technology under tight wraps. Shell Oil Company also made an effort to ensure that individuals who modified combustion engines to maximize fuel efficiency would keep their findings under the radar. They went on doing so by buying patents off these individuals for millions of dollars, and then destroying the documentation. This all being an attempt to ensure the future of their company and that their pockets stay full.

Oil companies also strategically associate themselves with the right people I order to help insure their advantage in the marketplace. This is done so through the powerful (and manipulated) world of politics. Many political candidates receive a great some of money from oil companies during their campaigns. The Center for Responsive Politics states that since 1990, Exxon Mobil das donated a total of 12.6 million dollars to campaigning politicians, 11 million of which went to the Republican Party (“Exxon Mobile Totals”). In doing so, there is a sort of informal agreement between the oil companies and that public official. The role is simple: this public official will oppose any laws and regulations that threaten the livelihood of these corporate companies. In return, they receive campaign money. This cycle ensures both parties stay happy. But where does the consumer come into play? Where does the consumer benefit? Sorry to say, but they don’t give a rats ass about the consumers. All that matters in the vicious cycle is money for the oil industry and power for the public official who is supposed to “work for the common good of the country.” Unfortunately, that’s also a lie.

Lack of fuel efficiency standards is harmful on a verity of levels. The first level relevant to consumers is the increasing prices at the pump. In the past year, gas prices have rose approximately one dollar per gallon. When paying more for a product or service, one usually expects to be receiving a better product or service in return. Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case for the gas we buy. Consumers have been paying an increasing price for a decreasing average gas mileage in the past 40 years.

Recently, in the past decade, a move towards higher vehicle fuel efficiency standards is apparent. Many administrations have persuaded legislations that would force automakers to work towards these more environmentally and economically friendly standards. In 2007, President Bush signed a legislation that would force automakers to increase fuel efficiency by 40 percent by the year 2020 (“PEW Campaign for Fuel Efficiency”). This legislation was passed with the help of pressure from many environmental organizations such as PEW. PEW campaigned across the united state in order to convince lawmakers to put forth legislation to increase fuel efficiency standards. Through the fuel efficiency increases sought after by PEW, the united states is estimated to save on average 1.1 million barrels of oil a day. In turn, this would also help our economy by saving the American consumers collectively on average 25 billion dollars a day. The Natural Resources Defense Council estimates that “in 2020, the new standards will save consumers $65 billion in fuel costs by cutting oil consumption by 1.3 million barrels a day, while also cutting carbon dioxide emissions by more than 220 million metric tons that year.” This is money that can be used to drive other aspects of our nations economy. This proposal is a fairly good proposal in that in helps reduce the amount of fuel we use in our daily lives by forcing automaker to produce more fuel efficient vehicles so as to more wisely use the limited resources at hand. Along with helping consumers save money and indirectly stimulating the economy, this proposal will also be helpful to the environment. More fuel-efficient vehicles mean less CO2, resulting in less tailpipe emissions being released into the atmosphere. This in turn is helpful to the environment, helping to ensure a cleaner environment our generation and the generation that will follow.

Recently, the in office administration has put forth a new proposal. The Obama administration has put forth a proposal that would force automaker to double the current average fuel efficiency of their fleets, which is about 24 miles per gallon, to approximately 55 miles per gallon (Banerjee). This is a fairly strong proposal that will also have many benefits. In a statement by secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, he states:

"Think about what this means: American families would fill up their cars every two weeks rather than every week" (Banerjee).

The economical benefit is astronomical. Families will be cutting their gas spending in half. This money in turn would go to stimulating the economy. This new standard is estimated to save Americans approximately 1.7 trillion dollars per year at the pump. That comes out to over 8000 dollars per vehicle. These are mind-boggling numbers in deed and are all the result of a little pressure on automakers to make more efficient product for the consumers. But this isn’t enough for CAFE. “Tough requirements set under this administration will save 1.8 billion barrels of oil from cars sold between 2012 and 2016. These fuel economy requirements will also encourage new and emerging technologies while cutting GHG emissions by 21 percent by 2030” (Americas New Fuel Efficiency Standards).

Despite all the obvious environmental benefits of these legislatures, the National Automobile Dealers Assn. has decided to cry foul on this proposed plan. They claim that these new standards will add “an additional $3,000 to average vehicle prices by 2025” (Banerjee). Even if this statistic is true, it seems like the standards would be far worth the extra price. If the vehicles will be saving consumers on average 8000 dollars a year at the pump, this extra 3000 dollars could easily be paid off in less than a year. When all is set and done, these new fuel efficient cars will save the owner on average 5000 dollars during the first year of ownership, but then return to the previously estimated 8000 dollars per year after that. Seems like a good deal in any sense.

All in all, vehicle emissions standards are not where they should be. The government has not done a well enough job to pressure the automotive companies to produce more fuel-efficient vehicles. First and foremost, I blame the oil companies for poisoning our government with their bribing of officials. The entire situation becomes about making money for the oil industry while we go broke. With the recently proposed legislations on fuel-efficiency standards, a sense of long awaited relief finally seems to be within sight.



Americas New Fuel Efficiency Standards. The Green Market. 1 April, 2010. Web. Retreived 11 Dec. 2011.

Banerjee, Neela. “U.S. seeks to double average gas mileage by 2025.” Las Angeles Times. 17 Nov. 2011. Web. Retrieved 11 Dec. 2011http://articles.latimes.com/2011/nov/17/business/la-fi-fuel-economy-20111117

"Exxon Mobile: Totals." Open Secrets. Center fro Responsive Politics, 2011. Web. 11 Dec 2011. http://www.opensecrets.org/orgs/totals.php?id=d000000129&cycle=2012 

Gashole. Dir. Scott Roberts. Perf. Peter Gallagher. Film Racket Braint Media JK Productions, 2009. DVD.

1980’s Oil Glut. Wikipedia. Web. 13 Dec 2011. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1980s_oil_glut

1979 Energy Crisis. Wikipedia. Web. 13 Dec 2011. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1979_energy_crisis

1973 Oil Crisis. Wikipedia. Web. 13 Dec 2011. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1973_oil_crisis

PEW Campaign for Fuel Efficiency. PEW Environment. Last Revised: Jan 2011. Web. Retrieved 13 Dec 2011.

Who Killed the Electric Car. Dir Chris Paine. Perf. Tom Hanks, Mel Gibson, Chelsea Sexton, Ralph Nader, Joseph J. Romm, Phyllis Diller Narrated by Martin Sheen. 2006. Sony Pictures Classic, 2006. DVD..



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