clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:


As one who supported President Bush's effort to use all available means to liberate Kuwait, I applaud the president's courage and dedication in orchestrating Desert Storm.

It is a shame that in the past decade, no president has shown the same determination to liberate the people of America from our dependence on foreign oil. That addiction could recently be seen on the evening news from the Persian Gulf.The facts are brutally stark. We are more dependent on foreign oil today than when the Arabs imposed an embargo on oil shipments in 1973. And, according to the administration's own energy analysts, this dependence is expected to grow, not shrink.

Our growing dependence on foreign oil has led to a doubling of our consumption of oil from the volatile Persian Gulf. It would be hard to imagine a worse region to be so dependent on for such a vital ingredient for our industrial economy. The Middle East is racked by war, religious hatred and instability.

Yet the administration holds out the mirage in its "National Energy Strategy" that somehow, if only we give one more expensive incentive to the oil industry, we can produce our way out of our dependence.

We can't produce our way out, because we are exhausting, not replenishing, our oil supplies.

The National Energy Strategy fails to recognize this simple physical and geological fact.

To overcome this problem, we must confront the central consumer of oil: the transportation sector. Traveling around American now requires more than 60 percent of the oil we consume, with the automobile consuming the largest share.

In the past three years, we have seen the overall decline of the new auto fleet's fuel efficiency, a trend that is the exact opposite of what we need if our goal is to become less dependent on foreign oil.

In 1975, Congress enacted a Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standard. CAFE requires each auto manufacturer's new car fleet to meet certain fuel economy standards.

Despite the auto industry's dire warnings that CAFE standards were impossible to meet, the original CAFE legislation has contributed to a dramatic improvement in auto mileage.

During the years this legislation has been in effect, auto gas mileage has doubled with no loss of performance or interior size. Such prodigious results have prevented billions of dollars from going abroad to oil producer bank accounts and billions of tons of carbon dioxide from spewing into our air.

However, the fuel economy standard is frozen in place at 27.5 mpg. This standard was a worthy goal for the '70s and '80s, but our growing dependence on foreign oil, environmental and economic problems demand significant improvements.

A goal of improving fuel efficiency by 40 percent by the end of the century is a realistic proposal and that is exactly what Sen. Slade Gorton, R-Wash., and I propose in our bipartisan legislation.

CAFE, as our bill is known, has been co-sponsored by 34 of our Senate colleagues. It requires no exotic new technology or downsizing of the automobile fleet. It simply requires the increased application of existing fuel-efficient technology.

CAFE was passed out of the Senate Commerce Committee by an overwhelming majority of 14-5 last week. This improvement in fuel efficiency would conserve an estimated 2.5 million barrels of oil a day by the year 2005.

If we are a wise and prudent people, history will record that we heeded the warnings from the Persian Gulf and set off on a course of reducing our dependence on foreign oil.