Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

25 MPG Won't End US Energy Problem

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

25 MPG Won't End US Energy Problem

Article excerpt

I'm doing my bit to solve America's energy problem. I've just retired my nine-year-old eight-cylinder Ford Explorer and replaced it with a four-cylinder Subaru Forester. (Actually my Explorer retired itself, signaling impending demise with a knocking noise in the engine that suggested to alarmed motorists that an Army tank was tailgating them.)

On its first out-of-town run, the Subaru was plenty peppy and gave me 25 miles to the gallon, a saving for me and the nation of probably around 20 percent to 25 percent over the gas I'd have used in the Explorer. But before smugness sets in, I know that we've all got to do a lot more than make this kind of modest effort if we are to meet the challenge of increasing US energy consumption on the one hand, confronted on the other hand by heightened competition for the world's supply.

India and China, two countries whose economies are exploding, are gobbling up ever-larger quantities of oil wherever they can cut a deal, and placing huge new demands on the world's resources. At an American Enterprise Institute conference last month, former Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham predicted that by 2025, today's global demand for 84 billion barrels of oil per day will have grown to 121 billion to 130 billion barrels a day. Electricity demand will have increased 100 percent to 125 percent and the demand for natural gas will grow 67 percent.

In an ideal world, the solution for the US is to become independent of foreign oil. The polar bears of Alaska could soon see drilling for new oil in their Arctic habitat, but this won't meet the needs of a nation that presently consumes much more than it can produce itself. Its own reserves are minuscule - less than 3 percent of the world's known total - but it uses 25 percent of the available global supply.

So long as its love affair with the gasoline automobile continues, the US can't do without foreign oil. The government could, however, require manufacturers to increase the efficiency of new vehicles by tightening rules requiring minimum mileage per gallon for certain categories, such as SUVs. The government could also encourage automakers to produce more fuel-efficient cars by increasing the gasoline tax. …

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