Recently it was announced that the Bush administration was considering reversing course and supporting an increase in the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards by 1.5 miles per gallon by 2007. While I feel forced to agree with environmental groups that this goal is woefully inadequate, it is still a step in the right direction, albeit a baby step. In any event, it is a step that should be taken.
One of our main vulnerabilities in this new war is our continued dependency on foreign sources of oil. More than one of those sources is a nation that both harbors and finances groups that seek to murder Americans en masse, the most notable of these being Saudi Arabia. Raising CAFE standards is a necessary first step toward reigning in the high rates of oil consumption that drive this dependency. While I believe that market forces are the best initiators of meaningful change in private enterprise and I am normally against the type of government economic regulation that CAFE standards represent, I would submit that, in this case, raising the standard is both necessary and appropriate in the interests of national security. After all, these standards were put into place by Congress as a direct response to the 1973 Arab oil embargo.
I would take it even further, however, by using government resources to develop alternative sources of fuel such as the hydrogen fuel cell or a practical and cost-effective electric car. This would be no different than the Roosevelt administration’s funding and direction of efforts to develop plastic and synthetic rubber as well as other technologies during World War two. Unfortunately, efforts such as these would likely meet with resistance from the Bush administration.
In the final analysis, less dependence on foreign oil will vastly decrease the significance to our foreign policy that those oil-producing nations represent. This will in turn make it less necessary for us to become involved there, which will save American lives in the long run. In addition, greater fuel efficiency will decrease air pollution; certainly a very desirable benefit. So long as public and political pressure remains firm towards lessening our dependence on foreign oil, I believe the Bush administration will ultimately do the right thing in the interest of national security. In is, in the end, the legacy he desires.
Scott Wacholtz is a junior majoring in computer science and political science.