Friday, June 22, 2007


Is the energy bill enough or too little, too late? If it were twenty years ago the recent bill passed by the U.S Senate would have been applauded for its foresight and innovation. While not getting all that they wanted, the bill includes provisions that would increase fuel mileage to a fleet average of 35mpg by 2020; boost ethanol production sevenfold; prevent oil price gouging; increase appliance and lighting efficiencies; and, provide research into more energy efficient vehicles.

As was expected, the now anti-environment Republicans killed a tax on oil companies to help fund renewable energy as well as a requirement to force utilities to bur electricity from renewable energy suppliers. It would appear that Republicans have grown too accustomed to feeding off of the oil producers to even think of taking any of their record making profits. And they wonder why they will lose in 2008?

If this bill passed twenty years ago, assuming the President signs it, this would have been hailed as an environmental milestone. My concern, however, is that based upon the U.N. global climate change reports, we do not have until 2020 to begin the process of reducing green house gas emissions. If fleet averages just reach 35mpg by 2020 there is no expectation that everyone is going to run out and purchase a new vehicle at that time. It will take years past the 2020 date before major reductions in emissions are felt. That kind of time is not on our side.

According to the DAILY FUEL ECONOMY TIP the following information relates to fuel economy of several U.S. vs. Japanese auto makers:
Top 5 Most Fuel Efficient American Cars:
Ford Escape Hybrid - 36 mpg city / 31 mpg highway
Chevy Aveo - 26 mpg city / 35 mpg highway
Ford Focus - 26 mpg city / 34 mpg highway
Chevy Cobalt - 25 mpg city / 34 mpg highway
Ford Fusion - 24 mpg city / 32 mpg highway
Top 5 Most Fuel Efficient Japanese Cars:
Honda Insight - 60 mpg city / 66 mpg highway
Toyota Prius - 60 mpg city / 51 mpg highway
Honda Civic Hybrid - 49 mpg city / 51 highway
Toyota Corolla - 32 mpg city / 41 mpg highway
Toyota Matrix - 30 mpg city / 36 mpg highway

The obvious question raised from the above is, what is so exciting about getting 35mpg by the year 2020? The Japanese are far exceeding these standards now! The technology obviously exists to make immediate impacts on climate change and U.S. auto makers will find themselves wondering why their sales continue to decline.
Even now we are seeing drastic changes in the climate and factors not even considered in the UN’s equations are cropping up. The poles are saturated with CO2, glacial melt is faster and other unsuspected factors are emerging that were not even considered in earlier projections. The web of nature is so complex we do not understand or account for all of those relationships in our modeling and our predictions. Most informed scientists say we have to act now to reduce emissions and political leaders are still acting as if we have decades to solve or at least address climate change issues. All evidence is to the contrary.

A recent ABC News story says the following:
“Even "moderate additional" greenhouse emissions are likely to push Earth past "critical tipping points" with "dangerous consequences for the planet," according to research conducted by NASA and the Columbia University Earth Institute.
With just 10 more years of "business as usual" emissions from the burning of coal, oil and gas, says the NASA/Columbia paper, "it becomes impractical" to avoid "disastrous effects.”
By heralding the new research paper, NASA is endorsing science that places considerably more urgency on the need to reduce emissions to avoid "disastrous effects" of global warming than was evident in the recent reports from the world's scientists coordinated by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
The new NASA release emphasizes the danger of "strong amplifying feedbacks" pushing Earth past "dangerous tipping points."

Regardless of all of the back slapping for this new piece of environmental legislation, the public must come to understand that the called for measures are too little, too late. We do not have until 2020 to start making major changes in the way we live. Our own government agencies are issuing dire warnings but our politicians are off in the ozone layer somewhere, assuming there still is one.

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