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Time for this nation to take a clearly leading role in energy efficiency.

The United States Senate has proposed a bill that would require automakers to increase fuel economy over 40% to 35 miles per gallon. The new regulation, if passed by the House, would apply to all sized vehicles-cars, trucks, and SUVs.

One of the major concerns by consumers is that their choice of ‘size’ will be impacted by the bill, but according to David Friedman, director of the clean vehicles program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, he “……would expect them [cars] to look a lot like they do today, the same size, the same acceleration and the same or even better safety.” Friedman added that he believes the cars will “……have better technology, better engines, more efficient transmissions and stronger aluminum bodies”, but they may cost more.

The proposed legislation seeks to research ways to improve the use of lithium-ion batteries, like the kind used in laptop computers, but if the cars are plugged into electric sockets will the costs in electricity eclipse the savings in gas? Some studies suggest that averaging the cost of fuel and electricity could bring the cost down to the equivalent of $1/gallon.

While automakers are balking and lobbying hard against the fuel economy provision in the Senate bill as proposed, because they believe they will be unable to change the mix of cars available to the buying public in the showrooms of 2020, thirteen years from now, Eric Ridenour, Chief Operating Office at Chrysler Group indicates that right now 3 out of 4 vehicles are built on truck frames and the company will have to decide whether or not to keep selling some of its larger vehicles in light of the proposed regulations. Ridenour clearly believes that the larger family-sized vehicles will be the ones most at risk, and that in the end vehicles will be lighter and smaller.

What’s with the American auto industries’ “can’t do” attitude? They fight every safety and fuel economy piece of legislation that comes along. Their lobbying and political power is so great that they scare politicians into mediocrity.

The American auto industry apparently would rather sell us keyless entry to our cars, satellite radio, navigation systems and hands free telephone systems than increase fuel economy and accident survivability.

Do you ever hear the Japanese or German auto makers complaining about safety and fuel economy regulations? I haven’t. They seem to be ahead of the game in developing smarter, safer and more efficient automobiles. Maybe that is why they are making tons of money while the American auto makers are all losing money and looking for government help to compete with their foreign counterparts.

In a speech to a joint session of Congress on May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy said in part, “Now it is time to take longer strides–time for a great new American enterprise–time for this nation to take a clearly leading role in space achievement, which in many ways may hold the key to our future on earth.”

President Kennedy then went on to commit the United States to achieve, before the decade was out, “… landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish.”

As a nation we marshaled our resources and talents and accomplished a mission many thought impossible. Wouldn’t it be easier to increase fuel economy in our personal vehicles by 500% within nine years than it was to “…land a man on the moon and return him safely to the earth…?” What would 100 mile per gallon vehicles do for our fuel consumption, fuel prices, dependency on foreign oil, balance of payments and air pollution? What value to American industry would such technology have in our competing in the global market place? What advantages would there be to mankind and our future generations to make quantum leaps in energy efficiency?

Isn’t it time “…to take longer strides – time for a great new American enterprise – time for this nation to take a clearly leading role…” in energy efficiency for the betterment of our nation and mankind as a whole?

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