Sometimes to fully appreciate where we're going, it's helpful to look back at where we were... That's what Angelo Young reports for the International Business Times.
Forty years ago Americans got a sour taste of Middle East geopolitics when oil-producing Arab countries used crude as a weapon against the United States for its support of Israel during the Yom Kippur War, proclaimed an oil embargo in the winter of 1973-74.
And as a result, the embargo forced crude oil prices to astronomical levels battering the global economy. And, it also woke up the U.S. and the rest of the world to its pattern of fuel consumption and served as a lasting catalyst for reduced usage and increased fuel economy.
Consider how far we've come...
Young says the Ford Model T got from 13 to 21 mpg. In the post WWII war era, most cars were lucky to get 10 mpg.
In the early 70s, most cars were getting less than 14 mpg. But by 1979 that average topped 20 mpg. That was due largely to the success of th subcompacts like the Datson 200SX (29 combined mpg), the Plymouth Arrow (31 combined mpg) and the Honda Civic (33 combined mpg).
Young reminds us that Richard Nixon began the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970 and it was his Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, who became the first high-ranking U.S. official to bring up energy self-sufficiency. Just three weeks after the start of the embargo the Nixon administration launched Project Independence, an ambitious plan to make the U.S. self-sufficient by 1980 by promoting energy conservation and innovating alternative energy. The plan failed, of course, but it was the first real effort by the U.S. government to tackle the country's addiction to foreign oil, and to oil in general.
It may surprise some to learn that it was also under the Nixon Administration that the U.S. government first administered Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards. The National Academy of Sciences concluded in 2002 that without CAFE standards Americans would have been at the time consuming 14 percent more gasoline.
By 1991, as the U.S. was coming out of the first Gulf War, the average combined mpg for a passenger car had increased to more than 28 mpg.
And alas, today’s average passenger car has a combined mpg that is still four miles shy of 40 mpg after more than a decade of mass-produced hybrid technology, but the rise of fuel economy has been swift, historically speaking. In just 40 years since the oil embargo the average passenger car in the U.S. has gone from about 13 miles per gallon to 36.
Young said that if anything good came from the embargo's oil scarcity it's that it made our cars much more efficient. How many of you remember when cars boasted 20 mpg and it was a big deal?