Government and Fuel Efficiency
Kevin Drum points to evidence that global demand for oil is soon going to outstrip our capacity to supply it, regardless of anything OPEC does in the short term. He proposes a short-term solution while we figure out a way out of the mess:
How about a deal that trades ANWR drilling for higher CAFE standards, for example? Sounds horrible, doesn’t it? But it might be a politically feasible trade, and in the end the benefit from higher mileage cars probably vastly outweighs the negatives of another pipeline in Alaska. Consider it food for thought.
An interesting idea, although I’m not sure it does all that much in the short term either. Aside from any ideological objections, the advantages of increased CAFE standards would take a while to phase in and it’ll be years before the energy extracted from ANWR exceeded that expended building the extraction infrastructure.. Plus, since people have grown accustomed to more powerful and/or bigger vehicles, it’s unlikely that people will suddenly start buying crappier cars just because GM and Ford start making them. And, of course, there are tradeoffs involved. People driving more fuel efficient cars are more likely to be killed in crashes. Further, anything that increases the cost of new cars creates an incentive to keep the older, less fuel efficient car that one is already driving or the purchase of a used vehicle that’s also less fuel efficient.
If government is going to get deeper into the fuel conservation business, I’d far prefer an approach that incentivizes conservation more directly, such as tax write-offs for the purchase of high fuel economy cars and/or hybrid vehicles; grants for R&D on more fuel efficient engines, and so forth.
For that matter, the government could probably save more energy simply by going to a four day work week for non-emergency personnel. Not only would there be drastic savings in heating, cooling, and other energy use in the buildings that are closed an extra day a week but there would be a massive saving in reducing commutes by 20%. If this were extended to include state and local government agencies, so much the better. It might catch on in the private manufacturing sector as well.