Fuel Economy Standards Could Downsize U.S. Foreign Oil Dependency

According to a study developed by Professor Daniel M. Kammen and his colleagues at U.C. Berkeley’s Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory (RAEL), America could end the need to import fossil fuels from the Persian Gulf region by 2020! “Towards Energy Independence in 2025” details immediate and long-term measures, basically increased fuel economy standards that, when applied to the nation’s transportation sector and fleet of power plants, could reduce oil imports by more than 30 percent within 20 years.

These measures could deliver daily oil use savings of more than 22 percent — equivalent to the 6.3 million barrels a day America currently imports from the Persian Gulf, the report claims. Since the transportation sector alone accounts for more than 70 percent of all U.S. oil use, the study’s recommendations call for the use of biofuels, a push to make plug-in hybrid vehicles that use cellulosic ethanol or gasoline only as backup, and the need for more use of hybrid vehicles. Professor Kammen notes that these currently available and near-term technologies and policies could make possible even larger oil use savings than the study projects, if pursued aggressively and consistently. “We spend over $240 billion a year on foreign oil,” cites Chris Wolfe, RAEL president. “Oil price and availability dictate the value of our nation’s stock markets and our retirement portfolios. Every time we fill up our cars, we transfer a greater part of our personal and national wealth to questionable governments. It’s time for a change and this study shows how to start.” The RAEL study was funded by a grant from Americans for Energy Independence (AEI), a nonprofit group dedicated to raising awareness of America’s reliance on imported oil through considering consequences and solutions. Americans for Energy Independence will use “Towards Energy Independence in 2025” to spearhead its efforts, making it available to the public and presenting it to all members of Congress. “We must put energy independence at the top of our national agenda,” Wolfe states. “To achieve it, we must have a plan of action, we must be willing to change our behaviors and, most importantly, we must have dedicated leadership to make it happen.” Observing that energy issues have not had significant national discussion for more than 30 years, Professor Kammen suggests, “We have been negligent in investing in energy research and development, as well as in ways to reward clean, domestic sources of power production. This study, and the vision of Americans for Energy Independence, explores how we can make the nation more environmentally sound and geopolitically secure.” In addition to projections for oil use savings and the resulting reduction of oil imports, the study’s recommendations could entail a 50 percent reduction in carbon emissions from light duty transportation (small trucks, SUVs and similar fleet vehicles), and a related cost savings of $1.1 trillion.
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