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Apr 7, 2011

Easing the Pain at the Pump


Innovative Transportation Solutions Foster Immunity to Oil Price Shocks

The United States uses a tremendous amount of oil each year—enough to fill a large 
football stadium more than 350 times.[1] More than half of this oil is imported, partly from volatile Middle Eastern countries.

Why do we consume so much? We drive the kids to soccer games. We ship orange juice 
from Florida to Maine. We make business trips from Denver to Houston. More than 70% of U.S. oil in 2009[2] was used to the transport of people and goods. Such a heavy reliance on oil to sustain our modern lifestyles leaves us defenseless when gas prices soar to over $4 per gallon.

To combat this problem, President Obama recently unveiled a plan to cut oil
 imports by one-third by 2025 in an effort to enhance U.S. energy security and economic prosperity. This goal includes a mixture of increased domestic production of oil, accelerated production of advanced biofuels, and improved vehicle efficiency.

While increased domestic oil production may mitigate national security
issues, it does little to ease the pain at the pump— US oil reserves are considerably more expensive to extract than reserves from the Middle East or Venezuela.[3] In addition, these supply-side solutions are only a finger in the leaky dam of our addiction to oil. Instead of trying to produce more, we should focus on using less through the efficient use of energy—starting with transportation since it drives the majority of US oil demand.

As explained in Rocky Mountain Institute’s (RMI) forthcoming book, Reinventing
Fire, which presents a credible vision of, and practical business-led pathways to, a U.S. economy free of oil and coal by 2050, and of natural gas thereafter, the key to eliminating the need for oil is first through radically improved vehicle efficiency, then through greatly improved vehicle use.

Doubling the fuel economy of passenger vehicles alone would almost be enough to reach President Obama’s goal of reducing foreign oil imports one-third by 2025. Based on RMI’s consulting work within the automotive industry, this is not only possible, but also economical in the near-term. However, to achieve long-term energy security, we must pursue radical efficiency, combining ultra lightweight aerodynamic vehicles with electrified powertrains.

Given that an inefficient SUV purchased today will probably still be on the road in 2025, we must start now.

A parallel approach, improved vehicle use, has little to do with stock turnover, vehicle fuel economy, gas taxes, or supply-side solutions. It requires us to examine when, where, why, and how we use our vehicles. Let’s look at the how?:

We can use vehicles in new, better, and more efficient ways (or not use them at all) and improve system-wide transportation efficiency in the following ways:

  • Carsharing programs lower the cost of vehicle ownership and reduce vehicle miles traveled, saving oil and time wasted in traffic jams.
  • Variable pricing mechanisms, like tolls on congested roadways, encourage carpooling and help traffic flow more smoothly (which means less starting and stopping and better fuel economy).
  • Well-designed urban environments cut back on the need to drive in the first place by co-locating workplaces and homes, providing high-quality public transit access, and creating solid infrastructure for biking and walking.

Efficient vehicles and improved vehicle use can not only meet, but also exceed President Obama’s 2025 goal. Automakers are pursuing efficiency with hybrids and fully electric vehicles—Ford, and several others, are going one step further, pursuing substantial lightweighting.[4] Entrepreneurs have created innovative solutions to enable smart vehicle use, from carpool-enabling phone apps to carsharing programs. Saving oil is more than good business—it fosters the nation’s immunity to oil price shocks.

[1] http://www.arnewde.com/architecture-design/architecture-building-sport-stadium-dallas-cowboys-stadium-by-hks/; and source 2

[2] http://www.eia.doe.gov/aer/pdf/pages/sec5_3.pdf

[3] http://www.reuters.com/article/2009/07/28/oil-cost-factbox-idUSLS12407420090728

[4] http://www.greencarcongress.com/2011/01/ford-20110114.html


Join the Discussion

Showing 1-6 of 6 comments

April 8, 2011

Thanks for this post. We need to take a step further back in considering our transportation options. Why do we want to get from point A to Point B? Can we get a comparable benefit from that travel in a different way? That is, do we need the travel at all? If we do, what do we really want as we travel? I think it's comfort, convenience, and speed each in varying degrees for different folks and at different times. Are there ways we can get the right mix of those things without a car of our own? If we think in terms of a big enough picture, I think we have to...

April 8, 2011

First off, freight trains no longer are a main carrier = thanks to our government.
Second, lighter automobiles = more bodily damage in wrecks
Third, our 'oil reserves' are there for a reason and it's not to fulfill our daily driving needs
Fourth, where are we going to get all this natural gas, if drilling is not permitted or restricted.
Fifth, bio-fuels and who will pay for the research, development of all this?
I personally will NOT ride on our highways in a small, less powerful vehicle. I do a lot of 'hauling' of stuff and animals and need a larger vehicle to accommodate my needs. What happens to the farmers, the construction people and others who depend on their trucks for their living. Now, because of our government, some of the franchise diesel pickup trucks have to have an additive to add to the diesel every 5,000 miles which costs more than the diesel
itself. Bio-fuels - who needs more 'junk' in their tanks? Environmentalists wear blinders; they can see straight in front of them, but have no peripheral vision..............

April 14, 2011

Ride a bicycle, it easy and good for you.

Walk and take the bus,light rail etc.

Drive a 100% electric Nissan LEAF or FORD FOCUS 3QT 2011), mine goes 80 miles on $1 of Off Peak USA excess electricity with no new pollution.

April 14, 2011

I have a fleet of 10 pick up trucks that get 12-15 mpg. I need a solution for replacing them with trucks that can carry a load and get 30-40 mpg. Any ideas?

April 14, 2011

The congestion problem in many if not most urban areas can be traced to "stoplight-based-traffic-control", complicated by the need for left-turn lanes and the waiting required for this.

In some areas having a north-south/east-west street grid, it may be a lot more efficient to go to "time-based" control.

Starting at 6 am, only north-south traffic would be allowed. At 6:15 N-S flow would stop and only E-W flow would be permitted on the designated avenues. This would only apply to large avenues, spaced about (1/3) mile apart. These avenues would be converted to one-way only--no curb parking allowed. The central lanes would have about a 45 mph speed limit with curb lanes limited to <25 mph.

People not driving in the "operating" direction could turn off their engines, get out of their cars, make phone calls, eat, etc.

Intermediate or transition streets would allow flow at slow speeds at all times.

It would also be conducive to use of jitnies or vans that could board people comfortably during the stoppages.

April 16, 2011

You missed the idea that a low cost retrofit of all cars not just small cars to operated on CNG
IS A FAR MORE PRACTICAL low cost quickway to get all cars off the oil barrel. All electric cars can only due 10% what CNG cars can do

At JPL 20 years ago I drove two cars on CNG and Amory was right there with 15 others. Technology was low cost then and now

T BOONE PICKENS is the way to go

Regards Dick Baugh