President Bush’s call for a 20 percent reduction in gas consumption over the next ten years could be accomplished much sooner — and without having to resort to either elaborate (and expensive) new technologies or a pack of federal mandates.
All it would take is for Americans to realize they don’t need 300 horsepower SUVs to sit in stop and go traffic.
Powerful vehicles are great — if you can use them. Trouble is, we generally can’t. The maximum lawful speed you can drive in the United States is 80 mph (in a few rural areas of Texas). 100 mph is sufficient to get you locked up in every state. So what’s the point in having a vehicle that can cruise effortlessly at 100 mph for hours, with a top speed a lot higher than that?
The Catch-22 is that in order to have that theoretical capability, you must have very real world power output — big V-8s, turbochargers, high-capacity fuel injection. The works. It’s all good stuff — if you can use it.
Trouble is, we can’t.
True, it’s possible to sneak a furtive burst of speed every once in a while. But most of the time, we’re constrained by the threat of jail — or simply stuck in traffic. We dare not — or we cannot.
Either way, it’s as pointless (and gratuitously wasteful) as endless porno pay-per-view at an impotence clinic. Why torture ourselves?
And it’s not just the would-be Dale Earnhardts out there. The fact is true speed freaks — the kind who would drive 130-plus, given the room and the absence of the law — are a minority. Most people don’t drive pedal-to-the-metal or even come close to exploring the ever-higher capability being built into the typical new car. Think about your typical “soccer mom.” Or how about the oldsters in their Northstar V-8 Cadillacs and 150-mph Benzes? Does grampa really need that? Would he even notice if someone swapped in a more reasonable V-6 with 100 less horsepower?
It’s silly. And completely pointless.
Most drivers are completely divorced from the reality of what’s under the hood — and what it is capable of doing.
Meanwhile, they’re getting 15 mpg — and burning up fuel that could be better spent elsewhere.
Given that most of our driving is not pleasure driving — we’re just slogging to and from the office; to and from the mall — usually in stop-and-go, bumper-to-bumper traffic — why not drive a vehicle that’s suitably utilitarian? Keep the hot rod/sports car/big truck in reserve, for fun — and for those times when you can actually use its power.
For most of us, that would be once every blue moon –or thereabouts.
We’d cut our overall energy consumption — as well as annual fuel bills — dramatically. And without a federal “program,” too.
But since we live in a completely nutso dreamworld where fantasies of power trump the reality of the daily grind, we’re not likely to pursue the rational “third way.” We’d rather suck the wells dry and be held hostage by Middle Eastern Mullahs — so long as we can sit and stew in over-powered, overweight vehicles going nowhere very fast.
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