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Tone Deaf at the NYT

This article in the NYT suggests increasing energy savings by dropping the speed limit to 55. Leave it to the NYT to find a solution that I would guess will be even more unpopular than raising the excise tax on gasoline.

Discussions - 10 Comments

Up theirs. I have a hard enough time surviving under the draconian 85, er, 65 mph.

It’s easy for the NYT to make such a suggestion since none of its employees--and few of its readers--ever use an Interstate highway.

I know I’m probably going to get labeled a troll for this, but I really would like to have a discussion here. No lowering the speed limits; no raising fuel economy standards; no gas tax - what steps would you take to reduce fuel consumption?

- Charging RINO

The world’s oil reserves will probably be exhausted by the end of this century, if not the end of this half-century. I doubt that Americans can really curtail their use of petroleum, considering that instead of finding alternatives to gas burning engines, they just make bigger gas burning engines that are slightly more efficient. The only thing that will force us to change is a lack of gas. So, I say, let’s lower the price and run out of the stuff as quickly as possible! That way, we can move on to the next step in fuel/energy technology. This gas thing is getting pretty old, and its obviously not the best solution.

ChargingRino can relax: there is a decent case for moderate increases in fual economy standards, though they won’t save as much oil as might be thought. (Airplane jet engines are the great example--hugely more fuel efficient than just 20 years ago. Has jet fuel consumption declined? Quite the opposite: more efficiency led to greater use. Something similar happened with cars in the 1970s and 1980s.)

Andrew, on the other hand, hits the nail on the head with the counter-intuitive thought that the sooner we run out of oil the better, because the next generation of energy sources will be cleaner. I thought I was about the only person who held this view, so I am glad to have some company.

The point is, all energy technologies can be thought of a transition in the long run. Oil was a vast improvement on wood 100 years ago, and whatever comes next will be better still.

Steve - very glad to hear that raising fuel efficiency isn’t off the table, at least for you. I must disagree with your finding that increased efficiency led to greater consumption though. As this graph from the Energy Information Administration shows, after CAFE standards were introduced, consumption dropped sharply, bottomed out in 1983, and then began creeped back upwards as further planned increases in fuel efficiency were stalled (after prices stabilized). [If you have conflicting data I’d be happy to see it]. The NHTSA has said that an increase in CAFE rules from today’s 25 mpg average to 36 mpg would save a million barrels of oil per day (more than the projected ANWR yield of 875,000 barrels per day at peak production).

I certainly don’t disagree with the idea that the next generation of energy sources will be cleaner and more efficient, however. Just as we didn’t cut down all the forests or dig up all the coal, however, I’m not all that convinced that we have to "use up all the oil" just to force ourselves to move beyond it. I should hope we as a species would have a bit more self-control than that.

I’m all for moving beyond petroleum though; clearly it’s a dead-end road.

- Charging RINO

Thanks for the compliment, Mr. Hayward. I actually know a lot of people who hold this view. Some of my closest friends and I were once involved with the environmental movement before realizing its vast amount of obvious (in hindsight, they’re obvious) shortcomings. I have much more faith that the private sector can make possible alternatives to our conventional energy sources.

RINO - My comment was purposely exaggerated; of course, I hope that we can find a more efficient energy source before we consume all the world’s petroleum reserves. It’s just a matter of economic viability. When it no longer continues to be economically reasonable to use oil as an energy source, we will find a way to adjust. I am sure that we will move to a new energy source before we run out of petrol. The same thing happened with coal and, to a certain extent, wood (though that’s a renewable resource, so it’s a different ballgame) which is why we didn’t harvest all the forests or mine out all the coal.

Bogus argument.

Cars are engineered to be efficient at various speeds by their designers. Engine design includes efficiency at certain RPMs and gear ratios. Lowering a speed limit may help some cars and hurt others. An SUV may do better, but more aerodymic passenger cars with higher designed highway speeds in mind may do worse. There is not a one size fits all solution to this except to work on alternative fuels and energy technologies to eventually replace oil. Anything else is just prolonging the problem.

Get out of the way and let the system function. Politics is sand in the gears of progress.

I lived thru the gas lines in the 70’s when the original 55 mph limit was instituted and now there is talk about it again today, yet nowhere do I see anyone talk about the offset loss of productivity that would accompany the reduction in fuel use.

Example: the speed limit means that in a typical 8 hour shift a cargo carrying truck (motor freight) can cover less distance. This will raise the cost of transporting goods and negatively effect worker productivity. How can we be more competitive globally with self imposed limits that hobble productivity?

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