Foreign Oil Addiciton Dropped 1975-1985

Barack Obama made another good decision in naming Rahm Emanuel as his White House Chief of Staff.  In an AP article by Adam Goldman, Senator Hillary Clinton praised Obama’s choice saying Emanuel “gets things done” and is “determined and effective”.  These are exactly the characteristics Obama needs in a key adviser.

I’m pleased with the choice too.  That said, I do take issue with a statement Emanuel made recently about our response to the energy crisis of the 70’s.  In a NY Times article Obama Team Turns to the Economy, a reference was made to an interview in which Emanuel said, “you don’t ever want a crisis to go to waste; it’s an opportunity to do important things that you would otherwise avoid…In 1974 and 1978 we never dealt with it, and our dependence on foreign oil never changed.”

Actually, we did deal with it, but we just haven’t followed through.  Emanuel is talking about the 1973 Oil Embargo and the Energy Crisis of 1979 immediately following the Iranian Revolution and the subsequent war between Iran and Iraq in which oil production dropped significantly as did the supply of Middle Eastern Oil to the U.S.   In 1973, Congress took swift action to pass the Emergency Highway Conservation Act which President Nixon signed on January 2, 1974 establishing a national maximum speed limit of 55 miles per hour.  In 1975, Congress passed the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards which required automakers to increase fuel economy to 27.5 for new cars by 1985.  With a flood of fuel efficient Japanese cars on the US market beginning in the early 70’s, US automakers began rolling out some impressive cars of their own – remember the Dodge Colt, Chevy Vega and Ford Pinto?  Ok, maybe the Vega and Pinto had a few issues, but they got good gas mileage.  From 1975-1985, our dependence on foreign oil actually declined from 35% to 27%.


Congres responded swiftly and effectively to the energy crisis of the 70’s, but these initiatives never became permanent.  Our cars are less fuel efficient now than in the mid 80’s and we drive them at high speeds – over 65 mph on most highways.  I’ve seen some roads with 75 mph maximums.

The Energy Bill of 2007 sets a 35 mpg standard for automakers to achieve by 2020.  The big 3 are set to receive 25 billion in loans to help reach the benchmark, but they have lobbied for a bailout and have some key supporters.  Speaker Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Reid have called on Treasury Secretary Paulson to use his authority to help the ailing U.S. auto industry.   But I say no bailout for the big 3.  Retool and start making better cars.   As to energy policy, 35 mpg in 2020?  Come on, cars from the late 70’s and early 80’s were getting up to 47 mpg.  See my previous post Bring back the Datsun B210.  I say 50 mpg by 2010 and 55 mph now!

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