Dec. 15, 2006: Globe and Mail—Cut the Horsepower, Military, CEOs Agree

Summary: "American motorists not only love their trucks and SUVs, but they want them ever more powerful, with 0-to-60 acceleration that used to be reserved for much lighter muscle cars.

To feed that thirst for power, auto makers have boosted the horsepower in passenger vehicles by an average of 85 per cent over the past 20 years, while increasing acceleration 25 per cent, even as the average weight rose 30 per cent. Not surprisingly, fuel economy has suffered and American thirst for gasoline has escalated dramatically.

Now a high-powered group is blaming that NASCAR effect for driving the United States into a dangerous dependency on potentially hostile crude oil suppliers."

The Energy Security Leadership Council’s report urges the government to mandate annual fuel efficiency gains of four percent, including commercial vehicles. That alone could reduce oil consumption by about four million barrel a day—about 20 percent of current US demand. Increased subsidies for biofuels and rapid commercialization of biomass ethanol were also among the council’s suggestions.

The report caution that even these steps won’t lead to energy independence. Instead, it’s oil intensity they want to cut in half. By halving the amount of oil spent for every dollar earned, they point out, the potential impact of another oil crisis could be assuaged.

Will American automakers swallow this bitter medicine? How about consumers?

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