Environmental energy or “Politics as usual”?

As the American presidential campaign continues, one of the most pressing issues concerns the soaring price of gasoline and its availability. Despite the increase in what are now being called “specialty fuels”, i.e., liquid hydrogen and natural gas, ethanol, bio-diesel fuel, and others, most people in America are still filling their tanks with that stuff known as benzene (in Europe) , petrol (in the U,.K.), or just plain gasoline. Fuel prices are now reaching the $4.00 per gallon level, and despite this people still fill their tanks with the petroleum derivative, even if they have to sell half of their household contents on E-bay to do so.

Consumer surveys conducted on the subject of energy for cars in America’s mobile society found that despite the cost issues and the dwindling availability of gasoline, people haven’t yet devised habits of personal energy conservation. In fact, it was found that despite fuel prices being at least 50-60% higher than they were at this time last year, the demand for gasoline has not abated and has even risen.

Fuel consumption in America now hovers around 400 million gallons a day, making Americans the highest energy consumers in the world, on a per-capita basis. Use of car pools and public transport are still confined only to some locales, with most people preferring to use their own vehicles to get to and from work.

CarsIt was found, however, that more and more smaller cars – which have better fuel economy – are being purchased, as well as models like hybrid cars. Companies such as General Motors and Ford have reported a decrease in the sale of SUV’s and other fuel consuming models by amounts ranging from 27% to 38%; while Toyota, maker of the highly successful and environmentally friendly Prius hybrid car, reported increases in sales of more than 60% for hybrids. Hybrid models (those with both a gasoline and electric engine) are getting more attention by America’s big car producers General Motors and Ford.

But taking the success of Japanese car makers like Toyota and Honda into account, American company efforts are almost in a “too little – too late” scenario as the Japanese make better and more reliable cars that hold up better on the road. Both Ford and GM were in their heyday when souped-up gas guzzlers were favored over tiny foreign “Econoboxes”. Of course this was happening when gasoline was selling for around $0.30 per gallon and supplies seemed unending as oil was fetching around $8-$10 a barrel.

At nearly $120 per barrel, and supplies definitely limited (Will Rogers once said “they ain’t making it any more”) more energy conservation should be practiced by everyone, and preached by governmental officials. If not, we may all soon be resorting to bicycles just like the Chinese – who are presently the world’s second highest petroleum consumers – once did.

And as for the American presidential candidates, including the ones advocating “change”, all they seem to be doing is trying to win votes, with no real energy solutions in sight.

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