Eight years wasted

by lestro

Today, the president announced plans to change the mileage standards on American cars, increasing them 30 percent in the next eight years.

Which, I admit, is a lot.  It’s going to take some serious work.  But it will be worth it on many fronts.

Here’s what the pres said today:

And that’s why, in the next five years, we’re seeking to raise fuel-economy standards to an industry average of 35.5 miles per gallon in 2016, an increase of more than eight miles per gallon per vehicle.  That’s an unprecedented change, exceeding the demands of Congress and meeting the most stringent requirements sought by many of the environmental advocates represented here today.

As a result, we will save 1.8 billion barrels of oil over the lifetime of the vehicles sold in the next five years.  Just to give you a sense of magnitude, that’s more oil than we imported last year from Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Libya, and Nigeria combined.  (Applause.)  Here’s another way of looking at it:  This is the projected equivalent of taking 58 million cars off the road for an entire year.

That got me to thinking: that’s a whole lot of foreign oil we would no longer be dependent on. And the sooner we start, the more we save. And it’s not only as individual consumers when our cars go further on the same amount of gas (for you American car owners, ask a foreign car owner what that’s like…), but also as a nation when we reduce our dependency on foreign oil, and maybe we can stop wasting so much blood and treasure fighting over sand dunes that happen to have oil deposits below them.

It got me to thinking about how this administration actually doing something about it. That’s a tremendous change from any prior administration since Jimmy Carter, who was laughed at for telling us to conserve energy (and wearing the sweater) and invested heavily in alternate energy until Reagan and his oil money knocked the whole thing down, setting us back about 28 years.

Within 130 days of taking office, Obama actually set new standards, which will work to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

Bush never did that, despite talking about it until his fool head nearly fell off.

2008 State of the Union:

To build a future of energy security, we must trust in the creative genius of American researchers and entrepreneurs and empower them to pioneer a new generation of clean energy technology. Our security, our prosperity, and our environment all require reducing our dependence on oil.

2007 SOTU:

Extending hope and opportunity depends on a stable supply of energy that keeps America’s economy running and America’s environment clean. For too long, our Nation has been dependent on foreign oil. And this dependence leaves us more vulnerable to hostile regimes and to terrorists who could cause huge disruptions of oil shipments and raise the price of oil and do great harm to our economy.

It’s in our vital interest to diversify America’s energy supply. The way forward is through technology. We must continue changing the way America generates electric power by even greater use of clean coal technology, solar and wind energy, and clean, safe nuclear power. We need to press on with battery research for plug-in and hybrid vehicles and expand the use of clean diesel vehicles and biodiesel fuel. We must continue investing in new methods of producing ethanol, using everything from wood chips to grasses to agricultural wastes.

note please, that increasing fuel standards never gets mentioned.

2006 SOTU, and this one was a big, big deal at the time:

Keeping America competitive requires affordable energy. And here we have a serious problem: America is addicted to oil, which is often imported from unstable parts of the world. The best way to break this addiction is through technology. Since 2001, we have spent nearly $10 billion to develop cleaner, cheaper, and more reliable alternative energy sources. And we are on the threshold of incredible advances….

We must also change how we power our automobiles. We will increase our research in better batteries for hybrid and electric cars and in pollution-free cars that run on hydrogen. We’ll also fund additional research in cutting-edge methods of producing ethanol, not just from corn but from wood chips and stalks or switch grass. Our goal is to make this new kind of ethanol practical and competitive within 6 years.

Again, note that “increase fuel standards” never comes up as a way to save oil.  He only goes with big-ticket ideas he knows will never get through congress.

2005 SOTU, though in this one he didn’t actually say “oil”:

My Clear Skies legislation will cut power plant pollution and improve the health of our citizens. And my budget provides strong funding for leading-edge technology – from hydrogen-fueled cars, to clean coal, to renewable sources such as ethanol. Four years of debate is enough – I urge Congress to pass legislation that makes America more secure and less dependent on foreign energy.

For the record, the “Clear Skies” legislation actually allowed the largest polluters in the country to pollute more by actually changing the standards and creating loopholes for said polluters. It’s part of the Bush Doublethink Series that brought you “Healthy Forests” and the “Patriot” Act, all three of which do almost exactly the opposite of what they are called.

2004 SOTU:

Consumers and businesses need reliable supplies of energy to make our economy run, so I urge you to pass legislation to modernize our electricity system, promote conservation, and make America less dependent on foreign sources of energy.

For the record, the 2004 Republican Party Platform doesn’t contain anything about fuel efficiency, although they did want clean energy by drilling in ANWR.

2003 SOTU:

Tonight I’m proposing $1.2 billion in research funding so that America can lead the world in developing clean, hydrogen-powered automobiles.

A simple chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen generates energy, which can be used to power a car, producing only water, not exhaust fumes. With a new national commitment, our scientists and engineers will overcome obstacles to taking these cars from laboratory to showroom, so that the first car driven by a child born today could be powered by hydrogen and pollution-free. Join me in this important innovation to make our air significantly cleaner and our country much less dependent on foreign sources of energy.

I like that one. He’s gearing up for reelection and is still trying to snow us into thinking he gives a damn about the air as well as the foreign oil.

But again, no mention that we could be less dependent on foreign oil by increasing standards. Instead, he went pie-in-the-sky, proposing BIG MONEY on something he knew wouldn’t affect his oil buddies.

2002 SOTU:

Good jobs also depend on reliable and affordable energy. This Congress must act to encourage conservation, promote technology, build infrastructure, and it must act to increase energy production at home so America is less dependent on foreign oil.

2001 Address to Congress:

We can promote alternative energy sources and conservation, and we must. America must become more energy independent, and we will.

But we can’t pin it totally on Bush (though for most of his presidency he had both houses of Congress and the Court in his pocket and could – and often did – get away with literally anything).

Or can we? Here’s Bubba in 2000 (on his way out, mind you):

I also ask the auto industry to use the available technologies to make all new cars more fuel-efficient right away.

It goes on basically the same through the ranks until you get to Jimmy Carter, who actually was concerned with this issue for real, having been president through the Gas Crisis  of the 70s. The first mileage standard was introduced in 1978: 18 mpg.  It steadily rose to 27.5 in 1985 before dropping, inexplicably (Reagan, I am looking at you) to 26 again before going back up to 27.5 in 1990 and then staying there until today, when the president announced it would go up 30.2 in 2011 and continue up to 42 in 2016.

But imagine if instead of just talking about reducing our dependence on foreign oil for the past three decades – especially the last eight years when foreign oil was at the forefront of almost every policy discussion – by doing something simple like increasing standards.

Five years from now, we’ll be glad we did instead of just talking about it and wasting another 1.8 billion barrels of oil.

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