Sunday, July 6, 2008
Paying $145 for a barrel of oil is the equivalent of bankrupting 2 American billionaires every day.
$2 billion leaves our country every day to buy oil from producing nations. Can you imagine two billionaires handing over their fortunes to foreign oil producers, every day, 365 days a year? That’s $2 BILLION PER DAY; almost $1 trillion a year out of America.
First, the facts on energy.
Today America consumes 21 million barrels of oil a day, roughly 25% of the world’s consumption, even though we represent less than 5% of the world’s population. 70% goes to transportation, with 48% attributed to cars and pick-up trucks, 16% to heavy trucks, and 6% to airlines. The average American drives 12,500 miles and burns 500 gallons of gas a year. Because we only produce 6 million barrels a day, we must import 15 million, with 50% of the imports coming from the Middle East.
The 1974 oil crisis caused us to implement energy efficiency measures, with the average mpg doubling from 14 mpg to almost 28 mpg between 1975 and 1990. By 1990, with a daily consumption of 18 million barrels, and abundant cheap oil, we lost our focus and allowed our fuel efficiency to decline, to a low of 26 mpg by 2008. Had we maintained the same rate of improvement, today our cars would average 55 mpg; we would not need to import oil and may even have a surplus.
From 1990 to 2008, the price of a barrel of oil increased almost 15 times, from $10 to $145. And since 2000, while the demand for oil doubled, and supply kept up with demand, the price of oil managed to go from $20 to $145 a barrel, a 7-fold increase!
In 1970, we produced enough energy to meet our own needs. Can we become self sufficient again? Here is a five step process.
1. American driver reduces consumption by 35% through behavioral changes:
- Car pool to work one week a month and eliminate 25% of commuter miles.
- Work from home one day a week and eliminate 20% of commuter miles.
- Car pool to take kids to and from one week a month reducing 25% of mom’s taxi miles.
- Aggregate errands in one trip instead of multiple and reduce by 25%.
- Slow down to 55 mph and increase mileage by 15%.
- Inflate tires to proper pressure and increase mileage by 5%.
- Ride bicycle on weekends.
- Walk to lunch.
Savings: 2.5 million barrels a day, 12% of overall consumption, 3 years to implement.
2. American driver increases gas mileage 35% by buying fuel efficient vehicles.
- Replace old vehicle with plug-in, hybrid, or high mileage car.
- Aptera, unlimited mpg on the first 60 miles, 130 miles per gallon in hybrid mode, http://www.aptera.com/.
- Electrum, unlimited mpg, 150 miles range, http://www.universalelectricvehicle.com/.
- Phoenix SUV, unlimited miles per gallon, 120 miles range, http://www.phoenixmotorcars.com/.
- Honda Civic Hybrid, 45 mpg, http://automobiles.honda.com/civic-hybrid.
- Toyota Prius, 45 mpg, http://www.toyota.com/prius-hybrid.
- Smart, 45 mpg, http://www.smartusa.com/.
- And check out the Mercedes F700, a 50 mpg concept car for the next generation S class, http://www.topspeed.com/cars/mercedes/2008-mercedes-f700-ar43251.html.
Savings: 2.5 million barrels a day, 12% of overall consumption, 5 years to implement.
3. Obsolescence on the 30% “other".
What falls in "the other 30%" is everything from power tools to plastic bottles and recyclable containers. We can systematically attack this category, gradually replacing oil powered tools with mechanisms powered by battery, electricity and natural gas. We can reduce the 1,000 pounds of annual waste produced by the average American down to 700 pounds. We can eliminate the plastic bottle water and replaceable containers.
Savings: 2 million barrels a day, 10% of overall consumption, 5 years to implement.
4. New truck efficiencies.
This can be achieved through extension of new technologies including hybrid, solar, and phasing out inefficient trucks.
Savings: 1 million barrels a day, 5% of overall consumption, 7 years to implement.
5. State and local governments embrace new public transportation initiatives.
Europe, Japan, and China have long enjoyed the convenience and comfort of bullet trains. They leave on time and arrive on time. They transport passengers comfortably from the center of town to their destinations, eliminating the necessity to drive to an airport far-away from the center of things. They are unaffected by weather and do not experience turbulence. Security checks are a breeze, everyone boards at the same time, no need to be there more than 15 minutes an advance. They eliminate the humiliating hassles and waste of time associated with air travel. They do not use gas, only electricity. No carbon monoxide, no pollution, hassle-free travel.
With speeds exceeding 200 miles an hour, these trains would connect downtown Los Angeles to San Francisco in 2 and ½ hours. Americans have been deprived of this luxury which has changed the lives of many travelers in the rest of the world. That is until now.
Coming on the ballot in November 2008 is a proposal to connect all major cities in California with such bullet trains, which would drastically improve its infrastructure and allow it to once again be a leader. This would require an initial assistance of $10 billion from the state, and be self-funded thereafter. This is the equivalent of what the U.S. sends to oil-producing nations in 5 days. The site offers additional information, http://www.cahighspeedrail.ca.gov/.
Savings: 2.2 million barrels a day, 11% of overall consumption, 10 years to implement.
Over the next several years, these combined initiatives gradually reduce our oil consumption by 50%. America, are we ready to go green?