September 3, 2001
Fuel efficiencies and energy policy get "smoked"
At the beginning of August the House of Representatives voted to leave the corporate average fuel economies (CAFE) at archaic 1985 standards (27.5 mpg for cars and 20.7 mpg for light trucks, minivans and SUVs).
They also decided to plod along with an energy policy that increases our dependence on nuclear energy and fossil fuels and allows for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (for an estimated 6 month supply).
Thus, as world leaders, the entire U.S. enters the 21st century "smoked" out by the world's highest exhaust emissions per capita and "smoked" by our competition as they develop renewable/cleaner energy supplies and more energy efficient and economical cars, e.g. hybrids. Opponents to better CAFEs argue there may be more fatal car accidents from lighter vehicles. However, no one can quantify the environmental, health, and financial costs of heavier, more polluting vehicles, especially increased asthma rates in our children.
If we don't make changes, we'll leave a tainted legacy of contempt for our environment, future generations, and to the rest of the world as U.S. policymakers try to find loopholes out of the 1997 Kyoto protocol's attempt to curb global warming.
Concerned citizens should write to their elected officials and demand better CAFEs. There should also be cleaner standards for the more polluting diesels, and a progressive, not regressive, energy policy.
Drivers of heavy gas guzzlers should be prepared to pay a "guzzling" surcharge to compensate for their greater damaging effects, or drivers of smaller vehicles should get a reduced licensing/registration fee as in the United Kingdom.
We should all be prepared to pay a little extra gas tax that can be used to fund energy and transporation improvements and research. After all, consider what changes one would be making/advocating if you were paying $4-6 per gallon as in most of Europe.
Jim Overton RN, Bothell