After calling America's "addiction to oil" one of the most serious challenges in America today, President Bush renewed calls for a higher mandatory alternative fuel standard and higher fuel efficiency standards for motor vehicles in an effort to conserve 8.5 billion gallons of gas in the next 10 years (click above for the entire speech). Today's announcement again outlined Bush's "20 in 10" proposal, a plan to reduce American gas consumption by 20% by 2017. Through an executive order, he called for the Congress, US EPA, Department of Transportation, Department of Energy and Department of Agriculture to work with the administration in order to finalize these plans by the end of 2008. Before we start applauding though, lets take a closer look at the "20 in 10" plan.According to Forbes, the 20% reduction of gas consumption is not a 20% cut in current usage. Rather, it refers to a cut "relative to a projection of future gasoline usage in 2017." Furthermore, the mandatory alternative fuel standard, although increasing the total amount of alternative fuels, would be a change from previous mandatory renewable fuel standards, allowing "alternative fossil fuels" to join the party.
Before passing judgment, we would like to see how Bush's plan attempts to raise efficiency standards (aka CAFE standards). For example, the US Senate is now considering a bill which would require a 4% annual improvement in efficiency starting in 2011, a standard by which we can judge the Bush plan. We would also like to see a plan which addresses current fuel consumption, not the future projection. Finally, we would like to see more carrots than sticks in working with businesses to reduce the carbon emissions of autos. Perhaps immediate incentives for producers and buyers of higher fuel efficiency and the production cleaner, renewable energy sources combined with a plan to improve America's public transit systems (many of which have been losing funding at a rapid pace) would help reduce total fuel consumption today, not in 2017.