Edwin Black hits the nail right on the head when he writes about our use of oil for transportation (“Want to stop Iran’s nukes?,” April 17). Americans drive their automobiles and trucks far more than any other nation on earth. In 2014, the Americas consumed 30.6 millions of barrels per day, compared to Asia/Pacific at 30.7 mbpd, and Europe at 14.3 mbpd. The United States alone accounted for 19.4 mbpd – more than the combined total of all European nations.
If you look at oil consumption in terms of per capita use, it is clear that America is driving its bus in the fast lane. And no matter what the price of oil is, $50 per barrel or $150 per barrel, America’s consumption creates a gigantic transfer of wealth to oil producers, of which Iran is one. That fact props up a regime that is bent on converting economic power into political and military power.
On the other hand, Mr. Black then recommends that Americans consider the use of flex-fuel vehicles as an easy solution. The environmental science community does not universally support this approach, since it affects agriculture and food markets. Some of the downsides are an increased price of corn, leading to lower demand for corn-based foods, which is having an adverse impact on the diets of low-income populations in South and Central America. It is also leading to accelerated rainforest destruction in Brazil, as forest is turned into soybean plantations. Finally, flex-fuel vehicles are not more fuel efficient. Their mpg ratings typically decline, since E85 fuel packs less energy into a gallon than does normal gasoline.
There is another answer, and it does not cost a cent. Drivers can simply choose to slow down. Each 5 mph you drive over 60 mph can decrease fuel economy by 7 percent. So here is a challenge. If you drive at 65 mph (as do I), reduce your speed to 55 mph. Spend a little more time in your car, getting where you have to go. You’ll lower your fuel consumption by about 15 percent. And the next time you go shopping for a car, get the EPA Fuel Economy Guide and pick from among the fuel economy leaders.
Full disclosure. This writer’s family has two hybrid vehicles and a 34 mpg (combined) turbo-diesel, which can go 500 miles between pit stops.
Send the Iranian mullahs a message. Drive slowly and smile, as you save gas.