by David SchechterProject Energy: Better Fuel Efficiency - wcco.com
(WCCO) Apr 12, 2006 12:45 am -- Drive wherever, whenever and whatever we want. That's the American way.
But there's mounting proof that our love affair with the car threatens our national security and the health of our planet.
Steve Meyers wants to do something about it. He's a Golden Valley, Minn. inventor who's re-designed a jet engine for the Air Force. He even saved a nuclear reactor from melting down.
Now he's developing a car engine that could reduce America's dependence on foreign oil and cut global warming.
"What our technology does is reduce the consumption of gasoline," Meyers said.
Meyer's process modifies tap water into a power fuel which, he says, can improve fuel efficiency and reduce exhaust.
"It's environmentally the right choice," Meyers said. It might be a long shot. But something's got to be done.
The world consumes an Olympic swimming pool full of oil every 15-seconds. That's almost 250 times in an hour.
The majority of it used for transportation. America represents 4 percent of the world's population, but we use about a quarter of the world's oil much of it for driving people and products where they need to go.
In this country, transportation accounts for almost 70 percent of all the oil we use.
"You win the energy war by addressing transportation," said Matt Simmons, who leads the world's largest energy investment bank, based in Houston, Texas. "It's the single most important issue facing the world over the next 50 years," Simmons said.
So, what can we do about it?
"We've got to get deadly serious about fuel efficiency," said Randy Udall who is a leading advocate for renewable energy and efficiency based in Aspen, Colorado.
He said we can improve our gas mileage by using the technology we have today.
"We know how to make vehicles now that get 40, 50, 60, 70, 80 miles to the gallon. They don't need to be small. They don't need to be unsafe," Udall said. "In fact, they can probably be more comfortable and have more amenities than the ones we're driving right now."
So if it's not an issue of technology then why don't we do it?
In the 1970's, President Jimmy Carter didn't have hybrid cars or alternative fuels. But he still drove average fuel efficiency from 12-miles per gallon to 28-and-a-half miles per gallon.
"Since I left office, as you know, the restraints have been dropped," said former president Jimmy Carter. "So now the average automobile efficiency it's dropped down to about like it was when I became president almost 25 years ago."
It's dropped in part because of the SUV.
A vehicle America fell in love with when gas was cheaper.
But heavier vehicles like SUVs are exempt from tougher fuel efficiency standards. And there are millions of them on the road.
"There's a middle ground," said Dr. Ken Keller. He's a former president of the University of Minnesota where he now teaches energy policy.
Keller says it is about fuel efficiency But people also need to use less gas by combining errands sharing rides or using mass transit.
"I don't think we can live with total license that we can do anything we want and continue to do more of it," said Keller. "But I don't think that what we're talking about is a future in which we totally change our lifestyle."
"This is not Jimmy Carter's we're all gonna suffer," said Republican Senator Norm Coleman.
Traditionally, "green" issues belonged exclusively to Democrats but not anymore. Coleman supports tighter fuel efficiency standards.
And using alternative fuels like ethanol, made from corn.
"This is a national security threat. Dependence on foreign oil threatens to undermine the security of the United States of America, today. And certainly in the future," said Coleman.
"For energy policy to be effective, it has be enduring. It has to be bi-partisan," said efficiency expert Randy Udall. "You have to have Democrats and Republicans side by side, promoting these policies."
One interesting policy plan was introduced this session at the State capitol.
It encourages Ford to convert its troubled St. Paul plant to build hybrid cars, that run on ethanol, and can be charged up with electricity when you get home.
Fuel efficiency could be well over 100-miles per gallon all with available technology.
Ford is yet to be convinced.
"It's inevitable that we will some day have a motor fleet that gets 40 miles to the gallon. And if it's inevitable, we ought to be doing it sooner rather than later," said Udall.
Inventor Steve Meyers says, eventually, his gas-saving invention could be retrofitted onto almost kind of vehicle.
"We have the science we have the knowledge, all we need to do is put it together and use them," Meyers said.
And if we already have what we need to get started right now ... he says, just imagine what's next.
MMVI, CBS Broadcasting Inc.