U.S. reliance on oil – primarily for transportation – has many negative impacts. To pay for this oil, American consumers send billions of dollars to other countries including some that are incongruent with U.S. interests. And we are dependent on this fuel from countries rife with political instability. Conflicts there can cause the oil price to spike. In short, oil dependence threatens our economy and national security.
In addition, the combustion of oil and petroleum products – particularly gasoline – threatens our environment. Emissions of greenhouse gases from motor vehicles are the second largest source of U.S. global warming pollution.
Congress began to address these problems with the enactment of the Energy Independence and Security Act. President Bush signed it into law on December 19, 2007. It includes the first increase in fuel economy standards since 1975. It would require cars and light trucks to meet an average fuel economy standard of 35 miles per gallon by 2020, with interim steps in the early years.
Now that the new law sets a fuel economy destination, auto companies can travel there via various routes. Some companies, such as General Motors, plan to develop "plug in hybrids" that rely on batteries recharged via AC outlets, combined with gasoline. Other companies plan to develop cars that rely on different fuels. Each system has its advantages and drawbacks.
This event will bring together leaders from General Motors and Honda to discuss their various approaches to achievement of the new fuel economy standards. An impartial automotive engineer from the Union of Concerned Scientists will provide his perspective as well. The ultimate technology "winner" could affect our transportation system for years to come.
Jack Deppe, Energy Storage Consultant, Office of Vehicle Technologies, Department of Energy
John German, Manager of Environmental and Energy Analyses, American Honda Motor Company
Jim Kliesch, Senior Engineer, Union of Concerned Scientists
Jonathan J. Lauckner, Vice President, General Motors
Daniel J. Weiss, Senior Fellow, Director of Climate Strategy, Center for American Progress