Projected U.S. Oil Consumption to 2050
America's continuing dependence on foreign oil is at the root of so many of our problems -- from air pollution to terrorism -- that one would expect our elected representatives to do whatever they reasonably could to ease it.
One would be wrong.
The Senate on Tuesday rejected a move that would have been a huge step toward reducing the amount of oil we burn every day, and thus ease the pressure on Americans to spill their blood protecting one corrupt Middle Eastern dictatorship from another.
The measure, sponsored by Illinois Democrat Dick Durbin, would have upgraded, for the first time in 18 years, the fuel-efficiency standards for automobiles sold in the United States. Utah's senators, Bob Bennett and Orrin Hatch, voted with 63 others to kill Durbin's amendment and to instead pass the buck to the Transportation Department, where the issue is unlikely to be heard from again.
The lopsided vote reflects the fact that both industry-supported Republicans and labor-backed Democrats have bought the auto industry line that requiring automakers to raise their corporate average fuel-economy (CAFE) would cut into profits and cost jobs. They have swallowed the line that updated standards would rob American consumers of their precious choice to buy behemoth SUVs that get 12 miles to the gallon and burn a significant portion of the 40 percent of our oil that goes to our auto habit.
Such towering disrespect for the American auto industry, and its workers, ought to be taken as an insult by Detroit -- if it weren't Detroit that was the most prolific teller of that fib. Of course our auto industry -- or the smart people who will replace it -- are clever enough to find a way to raise CAFE's benchmark from the current 27.5 mpg to the proposed 40 mpg by the year 2015.
It is just that, absent this kind of serious outside pressure, the Big Three have no incentive to get it done.
Meanwhile, our auto-driven dependence on foreign oil is at the base of our decision to go to war with Iraq (twice) and suck up to monarchies in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia while ignoring the huge humanitarian catastrophes of non-oil states such as Liberia and Congo.
Those links and alliances are the motivating factor for many anti-American terrorists, up to and including Osama bin-Laden.
Energy independence cannot mean turning the Middle East into a garrisoned American protectorate. It has to mean reducing, whenever and wherever possible, the amount of energy we use every day. Those choices should be made by the market wherever possible, but mandated by law when necessary and appropriate.
Higher fuel-efficiency standards for automobiles are necessary and appropriate. It was truly irresponsible of the Senate to reject this move.