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More Fuel for the Fire

To the Editors:

"Fuel Efficiency and the Economy" by Roger Bezdek and Robert Wendling (March-April) provided a fascinating insight into the problems that the largest consumer of fossil fuels per capita in the world faces in trying to move toward a more efficient fossil fuel economy. Unfortunately the CAFE program, in focusing on efficiency and decreasing dependence on Middle East oil, ignores the fact that all countries in the developed world must reduce their fossil fuel consumption habits drastically if we are to minimize the consequences of global warming due to human activity.

Although global warming was outside the parameters of their study, perhaps the authors should have read the recently published third edition of John Houghton's Global Warming: The Complete Briefing. They would have then found it more difficult to make the assessment that hybrid and fuel-cell-powered vehicles, as well as battery-powered electric vehicles for short-distance urban travel, are unlikely to play a significant role in the future.

This is unfortunate, since they are then forced to assess unrealistic scenarios. Even if one accepts their basic premise that gasoline-powered vehicles will continue to play a dominant role in the future, then one must question their assumption that the price of gasoline will remain in the hypothetical range from U.S. $1.25 to 1.75 per U.S. gallon (in 2002 dollars).

Canadians pay about 85 to 95 Canadian cents per liter (U.S. $4.00 to $4.50 per U.S. gallon), and have been doing so for many years. In most European countries, the price is two to three times this amount. Consequently, it is not surprising that the major innovations in personal transportation vehicles are coming from those countries with high gasoline prices. It is tempting to suggest that abnormally low gasoline and other fossil fuel energy prices constitute an unfair subsidy to the U.S. economy.

Harvey A. Buckmaster
University of Victoria
British Columbia, Canada

To the Editors:

Bezdek and Wendling's article was certainly welcome, and I hope that the administration's energy advisors read it. Another fuel-saving measure would come if lawmakers had the political courage to keep SUVs, which have inferior high-speed handling, classified as trucks for speed-limit purposes. Those who buy SUVs for safety's sake should welcome the regulation, but for many others it would be a strong disincentive to ownership. But if manufacturers managed to have SUVs reclassified as cars, they would have to include them in their CAFE fleet mileage guidelines. It sounds like a win-win-win situation.

Sifford Pearre
Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada



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