It’s Time To Get Oil Monkey Off Our Back

Apr 28, 2004
George Anderson

By George Anderson

A column by Scott Burns of the Universal Press Syndicate found on the Houston Chronicle’s Web site says history will judge our government and auto industry badly if a concerted effort is not made now to develop more fuel-efficient vehicles, preferably those that can run, at least partly, on energy other than oil.

Mr. Burns retells of a recent road trip where he traveled from Dallas to Ensenada, Mexico to Los Angeles and back.

Driving his 2004 Toyota Prius, Mr. Burns covered 4,890 miles on the journey on 106 gallons of gasoline. Most of the miles traveled, reports the columnist, were done at 75 mph. “Not economy speed,” as he points out.

Detroit’s answer to Japan on hybrids may be a case of too little, too late. Worse yet, he writes, has been the inaction of the federal government. “If oil prices remain high, Detroit will be flat-footed, and we’ll be hemorrhaging from two arteries. We’ll be paying more for oil. And we’ll be importing cars that use less of it.”

Moderator’s Comment: What can or should companies that operate large fleets of vehicles be doing to reduce their dependence
on fossil fuels? Does a company that operates or hires large fleets, Wal-Mart, for example, have the ability to influence vehicle manufacturing in a similar manner to how it exerts
pressure on other vendors?

Mr. Burns doesn’t make the comparison in his article, but the current situation, high oil prices and the American love for gas guzzlers, is eerily reminiscent
of the 1970’s when the combination of the oil embargo and Detroit’s delay in rolling out compact cars delivered a double whammy to the American economy.

To give credit where it is due, however, it should be noted that the Bush administration announced yesterday it had contributed $350 million in federal
funds to research and develop hydrogen vehicles. Over the next five years, the government will contribute $1.2 billion to this effort.

George Anderson – Moderator

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