How American Ingenuity Can Reduce Our Pain at the Gas Pump: Part 1

How can we reduce our pain at the gasoline pump, clean up the air, and spark American ingenuity? This week, leaders from industry, government, and non-governmental organizations are all gathering in the nation’s Capital to see how we can move from our gas guzzling vehicles to electric-drive vehicles that use little to no gas. The conference is being organized by the Electric Drive Transportation Association. (

As my colleague Luke Tonachel posted, when asked today about what the nation can do about high oil prices, U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Chu stated two simple ways:  improving the fuel efficiency of vehicles and deploying more electric vehicles.  I’ll examine each of these in a two part series today and tomorrow.

Part 1:  Improving Fuel efficiency

Thanks in large part to the new, historic vehicle emission and fuel economy standards established last year, consumers are now being offered a wide-array of fuel efficient choices by automakers. The latest March sales figures point to surging demand for hybrids and other fuel efficient vehicles.  In addition, automakers are now launching electric-drive products such as GM’s Chevy Volt, Nissan’s LEAF, and Ford’s All-Electric Focus, with a stream of new offerings coming down the pipeline from both major manufacturers as well as home-grown start-ups.  

Particularly in a globally competitive environment, high MPG standards can be profitable for Detroit and boost technological innovation. One only need to consider GM – the much beleaguered company many wrote off several years ago. As of last year, they received more clean energy patents than any other companies out of the 700 surveyed according to CleanTech.

What were these patents in? “Hybrid electric vehicles, fuel cells and solar energy, with a focus on improvements to current and future technologies” according to the article.

But it's far too early to claim victory. Policymakers and automakers alike can’t simply rest on their laurels if they want to cut our depedency and pain at the pump in the dramatic way. We need to be setting ourselves up for success going forward. The best way to accomplish this is by establishing even stronger fuel economy and pollution standards – reaching 60 mpg by 2025 – to continue spurring American ingenuity and to help transform our fleet from gas guzzlers to oil sippers. That’s the equivalent of the average new car and trucks in 2025 using 55-60% less gasoline than its counterpart in 2008. That’s more than halving our fuel bills at the pump. 

Fortunately for all of us, there is technology that is being commercialized TODAY that can reduce our fuel bills even more than this – namely electric-drive vehicles.

In Part 2 tomorrow, I will examine the ways that reducing our pain at the pump through electric-drive vehicles can benefit consumers and the nation as a whole.