I’ve just been notified by one of my senators (I have two) that the administration has announced a hike in CAFE standards to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. I heard the news several day ago but most of us have better sources than the Senate.
I had to sit down for a minute to let that shocking information sink in. I wondered for a second or two why they went for the fraction — what was it about the last 2640 feet per gallon that so tested their courage or was so beyond the range of their vision that they didn’t simply roll all the way to 55 mpg?
I was around in ’73 when OPEC crashed the party and I can remember feeling that the oil pirates were probably doing us a favor and we would learn to conserve and begin to shift away from fossil fuels toward more sustainable and responsible alternatives. I was very young.
I was driving a car back then that got perhaps 16 mpg and maybe 20 on the highway and with gas at 35 cents a gallon I could fill the tank for less than ten bucks. Today, payday lenders are making extortionate fortunes loaning workers money to drive to work… the ones with jobs to drive to that is.
I can remember having conversations back in those days when many of us seriously contemplated seeing 75 or even a hundred mpg by the turn of the century. These weren’t pipe dreams driven by the Grateful Dead and Ganja, but by top engineers, physicists, and techno visionaries of the time.
Today, the standard for that car or today’s counterpart would be 27.5 mpg (there’s that chicken-crap half mile again) and I’m bothered by the fact that over thirty six long years of oil wars, polluted air and water, acid rain, and a litany of other negative products of our oil dependency that we’ve only gained a paltry 10 mpg to date and our vision for the future is so limited and calcified that it still fears overreaching by a half mile.