Who’s got gas?

A Senate committee approved a plan Tuesday to increase fuel efficiency standards to an average of 35 miles per gallon by 2020 in a move closely watched by automakers and environmental groups.

Senate panel votes to boost fuel economy levels. By Ken Thomas, Associated Press

You know what I thought when I first saw this headline?

It’s about time.

You know what I thought after I read the article?

What a disappointment.

2020 is like what… thirteen years from now? With technological advances in batteries alone, I dare say an increase to an average of 50 miles to the gallon could be within reach. Personally, I’m hoping my NEXT car won’t burn any gas at all (most of the time anyway… I’m intrigued by the plug-in hybrid idea).

If hobbyists in California can make a plug-in Hybrid that essentially gives you an electric car – with the flexibility to run longer with the existing fuel distribution infrastructure (re: gas stations) – imagine what could be achieved with a little leadership from our elected officials.

This is where you’re going to ask me, “and where is all that electricity going to come from John? Don’t electricity plants pollute too?” The short answer is yes, but it’s not that simple (reality rarely is). Have you ever wondered why we have central power plants for our electricity? Hell, we could all run our own generators in our back yards. There are probably lots of reasons why we don’t (fuel distribution, start-up costs, etc), but I think I know one reason: it’s generally more efficient to produce a lot of something than a little. If this is true for “power” in general (not just electricity), then our current model for transportation may be the least efficient model possible. Sure, electric cars require energy… but compared to our current model (the equivalent of everyone running their own power-plant), it may be a quantum leap in efficiency. And you all know what efficiency means? If you answered: “achieving maximum output with minimum waste or expense” you win the prize! (Any guesses as to what emissions from a vehicle are? They’re waste products.)

Yes, I know it was just a few months ago when I wrote about fuel efficiency – and my entry talked about increases in fuel efficiency MUCH more modest than the one proposed in the Senate. In my defense… and I think you may agree if you re-read the entry (I double dog dare you!)… I was referring to the lost opportunity to increase fuel efficiency standards over the last twenty years (as much if not more so than future increases).

This proposal in the Senate is a day late, a whole heapin’ helpin’ of dollars short, and is incredibly short sighted.

It’s amazing to me that conservatives can cede any leadership on the issue of global warming, claiming “technology will save us when – and if – we need it to,” but they can’t put proof to their beliefs when it comes to fuel efficiency standards – which have ALL KINDS of implications beyond global warming (national security and economic considerations, just to name two).

Normally I can write to blow off a little steam… but I’m just getting angrier, so I suppose now is a good time to stop typing.