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Argument: Fuel economy standards increase energy independence and security

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Frederick W. Smith and P.X. Kelley. "Improved fuel economy standards are critical to America’s security and prosperity". The Hill. 5 Jul. 2007 - Congress is now considering major changes to the nation’s energy policy, and the importance of the decisions before them cannot be overstated. America must embark on a course to conserve fossil fuels and to ensure reliable access to the resources essential to continued prosperity. The long-term economic and national security interests of the country depend on improved energy security.

Increasing transportation efficiency is the single most effective step the U.S. can take toward energy security. Our nation consumes more than 20 million barrels of oil per day, and nearly 70 percent of this staggering quantity fuels the transportation sector. Transportation relies on oil for 97 percent of delivered energy, with almost no substitutes available. To reduce this oil dependence, America requires a new legislative approach to vehicle fuel-economy. Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards enacted in the aftermath of the 1973-’74 Arab oil embargo were instrumental in helping Americans dramatically raise fuel economy during the decade or so that followed. Since then, however, fuel economy for America’s light-duty vehicles has remained essentially unchanged, while average horsepower, weight and acceleration have all significantly increased. This stagnation in fuel economy has persisted even as technological advances have made improvements increasingly possible.

Considering the potentially devastating impact of an oil crisis, the time has come for new voices to break the CAFE deadlock. Business leaders and retired national security officials can help provide the necessary momentum. As the leader of a global transportation and logistics company with 677 airplanes and 70,000 vehicles, and a former member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who spearheaded the establishment of an independent U.S. Central Command for the Middle East, we are convinced that America’s extreme dependence on oil constitutes an unacceptable threat to national security and prosperity.

Reformed and strengthened fuel-economy standards —combined with appropriate government incentives and strict adherence to technology neutrality — must be critical components of any comprehensive plan to significantly reduce U.S. oil dependence.

"Vehicle Fuel Economy. Report to the Chairman, Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, U.S. Senate". US Government Accountability Office. Aug. 2007 - Reforming Fuel Economy Standards Could Help Reduce Oil Consumption by Cars and Light Trucks, and Other Options Could Complement These Standards Many experts believe CAFE has helped save oil—for example, a study by the National Academy of Sciences estimated that in 2002 CAFE contributed to saving 2.8 million barrels of fuel a day in passenger vehicles, or 14 percent of consumption in that year. CAFE would help the nation work toward fuel-saving goals if standards are increased, and GAO’s evaluation of NHTSA’s capabilities suggests the agency could act quickly to implement new standards and restructure the program. However, GAO identified several characteristics that limit CAFE’s potential to save fuel. Several refinements to the CAFE program could improve its effectiveness and reduce costs, such as setting different standards for cars of different sizes as the restructured light truck program does and instituting a broader CAFE credit trading program.

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