The Seven-Percent Solution

Excerpted from January 1998 issue

Seven Percent ... of What?!

(Gore and Clinton conspire
to deprive us of energy.)

During the 1973 OPEC oil embargo, the long lines at filling stations were legendary. The effects of that embargo on technologically advanced society were profound. For example, the demand for small cars increased so rapidly there was no remaining demand for the large cars that drivers had always wanted previously. Japanese cars _ small to begin with _ were all the rage, and Detroit's finest were suddenly not good enough. The automobile economy fell through the floor, and the export of money for OPEC oil and Japanese cars resembled a green hemorrhage. 

Not content to let market forces determine the course of events, Congress enacted legislation mandating that cars must be very fuel efficient. Large cars were out. 

Congress introduced the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standard, according to which the average fuel consumption of all automobiles sold by a given producer was initially required to be over twenty miles per gallon, with higher standards introduced later. Aside from making numerous expensive changes to cars to improve their gasoline efficiency, the only alternative for manufacturers was to sell smaller cars. 

The average fuel consumption of automobiles depends partly upon what cars are on the road, and how far they are driven annually. For example, if everybody owned a 1970 Cadillac, the average car might get 12 miles per gallon, but if everybody owned a 1956 Volkswagen beetle, the average car would get about 30 miles per gallon. If half owned the Caddies and half the beetles, the average mileage would be 21 miles per gallon, providing that all cars went the same distance every year. 

However, if the Caddies were driven 20,000 miles per year and the VWs went only 1000 miles per year, the average mileage _ the total distance divided by the total number of cars, divided by the number of gallons of fuel used _ would be close to 12.3 miles per gallon, but if the Caddies went 1000 miles per year and the VWs went 20,000, the average mileage would be 28 miles per gallon. CAFE assumes equal driving for all vehicles. 

Manufacturers were required to sell small cars, and to discourage the purchase of large cars. At the time CAFE was introduced, one of the most popular cars was the station wagon. They were so popular that it would be impossible to meet CAFE standards if station wagons continued to be sold at the then current rates. Station wagons disappeared overnight and were replaced in the market place by pickup trucks and (later) mini-vans, officially classified as trucks, and therefore not part of the CAFE averaging procedure. 

There were other effects as well, not least of which was the escalation of anti-nuclear rhetoric. If it seems paradoxical that The Green Gang should issue shrill screams against an available energy source when they were faced with a shortage of petroleum, remember their first premise: people are the scourge of the otherwise pristine earth. 

To this day, decades after the OPEC embargo, the Department Opposed to Energy waxes eloquent about efficiency and expensive, ineffectual, solar toys. 

The entire flap started with a 1% _ yes, only a one-percent _ shortfall in energy in 1973. 

Seven Percent Is Seven Times One Percent?

Some people are content only when they're making life miserable for others. In the name of protecting Mother Earth from global warming, diplomats from throughout the world met Kyoto, Japan, in December to decide how much carbon dioxide various countries may produce every year. Basically, this plan is to constrain how much fuel various countries may burn every year. Of course, countries don't use fuel; their citizens do, but that little matter can be taken care of with abundant government. 

In President Clinton's "global warming" address (10/22/97), he chose the most extreme of the options offered him by his chosen panel of supposed experts, namely that we would agree to reduce carbon dioxide levels to 1990 levels. Vice President Al Gore went to Kyoto and gave instructions to the negotiators to "be flexible," that is, to be more extreme than Clinton. Indeed they were, for they sold the US to the lowest bidder. Though one would expect the US to use 18% more energy in 2008 than now, the US negotiators agreed to reducing CO2 emissions of the US in 2008 to 7% below 1990 levels. Clinton shares our relief that he will not be President in 2008 when this program comes to fruition. 

Energy is not CO2 and conversely. Still, you'd better grab your billfold. And your overcoat. 


Excerpted from January 1998 The Energy Advocate
Copyright © The Energy Advocate 1998. All rights reserved.

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