the Boat on Oil Security
Op/Ed by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. for the New York Times
February 12, 2003
Bush is looking for his car keys in the wrong pocket. Caught squarely
in the public outcry over America's deadly addiction to Middle East
oil, the White House has latched on to hydrogen-powered fuel cell
vehicles as the solution.
dollars are welcome since fuel cells promise America a safe, clean
energy solution that uses renewables like wind and solar to extract
hydrogen from water. However, in a perverse sop to Big Energy, the
White House wants to extract hydrogen instead from coal and natural
gas (without controlling carbon emissions) increasing global warming
and fouling our landscape. Worse, the President wants to build a
new generation of nuclear power plants specifically for hydrogen
hydrogen plan will further reduce our national commitment to renewables
by stealing already anemic funding from federal solar and wind programs.
Department of Energy personnel have already been told to plan redeployment
of their budgets.
cells offer bright prospects but it will be 10 to 20 years before
economical hydrogen vehicles meet pavement. Meanwhile, Americans
are buying 17 million new cars, trucks and SUVs every year -- enough
to keep the oil tankers sailing for decades. More than 300 million
will hit the road before fuel cell cars appear in serious numbers.
These are the vehicles we need to address. America has the technology
today to make cars that get better mileage and pollute less. But
the Bush administration has repeatedly teamed with Detroit to scuttle
all efforts to deliver them; fighting tougher fuel economy standards,
wedging open the SUV loophole and creating obscene tax incentives
for Americans to buy the largest gas guzzlers. In an unprecedented
move last week, administration lawyers joined General Motors and
DaimlerChrysler in a federal lawsuit challenging a California law
that rewards carmakers for selling low-emission, gasoline-electric
are just one of the proven, real-world technologies that could start
saving oil right now. They can boost fuel economy 50 percent, and
never need plugging in. Toyota and Honda make small hybrid sedans
today, and will soon be putting the technology in bigger cars trucks
and SUVs. Ford and GM are scrambling to follow.
technologies that can boost the fuel economy include more advanced
transmissions; improved engine and valve train design; and better
tires. Available now, these solutions won't be widely used until
Washington gets serious about oil security.
can't drill our way to oil security: America uses a quarter of the
world's oil, but has only 3 percent of known reserves (compared
with 65 percent in the Persian Gulf). Some of our other suppliers
are shaky too: Consider Columbia and Venezuela, or the decay of
Pemex, Mexico's state-owned oil monopoly.
fuel economy to 40 mpg by 2012 would save nearly 2 million barrels
every day; that's more than we imported from Saudi Arabia last year,
and three times our Iraq imports. Boost that to 55 mpg by 2020,
and daily savings grow to nearly 5 million barrels, almost twice
our current Persian Gulf imports.
have an oil security problem now. We have an air pollution problem
now. And we have the technology to fix these problems now. It's
time for the Bush Administration to stop asking Big Energy and Detroit
what America can do for them and start asking what they can do for