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It’s all about the pickup truck, stupid

GM's bifuel pickup truck is a good start, but much more needs to be done since pickup trucks are the key to US energy policy and energy independence.

Smart: Natural gas or gasoline

For those that care about fuel economy, global warming, foreign oil dependence — we’re really missing the point

One of my old bosses used to say manage your to-do list, don’t let your list manage you. As part of that process one should list 10 things that need to be done that day, then number them in order of importance, and then do the most important things first.

Thus, if one were truly concerned and committed to improving US fuel economy, reducing global warming and fighting US foreign oil dependence, particularly OPEC dependence, they’d start with pickup trucks, PERIOD.

They’d grab the bull by the horns.

If you increase non-truck fuel economy by 10 mpg or increase truck fuel economy by 4 mpg, which offers more savings in fuel economy? Which reduces foreign oil dependence and CO2 emissions more? While the non-truck fuel economy sounds better because of its bigger numbers, the smaller improvement in truck fuel economy actually saves about twice as much fuel.

Which is why CAFE focuses on trucks, right?

Of course not. That would be too much change. Instead, CAFE focuses on the big, but less meaningful numbers, especially once finally applied in the real world.

Unfortunately, actually focusing on the real problem — pick up truck fuel economy — would destroy the US auto industry, at least if only CAFE-based. Can’t we just be honest about that?

That’s why CAFE isn’t just easier on pickup trucks until the next decade — when a review period could squash any real improvements anyway — but it also makes life easier on automakers selling the most trucks already, namely Big 3 automakers.

Now, I’m not necessarily against such protectionism. You can’t break bad consumer habits either easily or overnight and the US auto industry is critically important to the US economy, but when we pretend that so much more is being done than really is, it just gets annoying. I just want the simple truth, and I think that’s what the people should be given, especially if we want planned, real and sustainable change heading into the future.

Moreover, I think more could be done today regarding the real problem: trucks and their SUV-related foreign oil guzzling family members. For instance, why is so much horsepower needed today? We survived quite well a few decades ago without all that power and we lived in a more agrarian and suburban — truck needing — world then. How did moving to the city require so much more power and size?

It’s ridiculous and wasteful and its easy pickings.

Still, long term, even more needs to be done. Can’t something like natural gas be a good place to start?

I know, everyone in a car — 50 percent of America — can just move to EVs and then trucks can just guzzle the fuel left over. C’mon!

So, the 50 percent of Americans that drive cars all have charging capabilities? I’d bet it’s the truck owners that have a higher percent of off-street parking capablities. Plug-ins just aren’t enough. Can we be honest about that as well?

Just like Republicans protect big oil, Democrats protect the big-oil guzzling profits of the Big 3. Take away gas-guzzling pickup truck sales and the UAW is dead. So tell me that new CAFE rules weren’t at all political and special interest motivated, and I’ll tell you that you’re full of it. I know though, it’s never the addict’s fault.

Certainly, it’s true that big oil is part of the problem, but they can be made into part of the solution. Likewise, the Big 3’s over-dependence upon pickup trucks is part of the problem, but it can also be part of the solution.

In reality, America doesn’t even have to reinvent the wheel to end OPEC dependence, for instance. If we just outlawed any vehicle over such and such a weight — affecting most pickups and SUVs — unless for extremely legitimate work purposes, we could wipe out OPEC dependence without any new technologies, and without any taxpayer money.

Of course, we’re not going to do that. Republican pickup drivers and rust belt Democrat politicians would never allow it — interesting bit of irony there, isn’t there? But even if we do this the hard way, we can still do better.

Yesterday, GM announced the launch of its dual fuel — gasoline and natural gas — pickup trucks, and Ford is set to do the same. Coupled with Ecoboost, for instance, that’s a good start, but much, much more needs to be done. For instance, this dual fuel capability needs to be offered in more than just heavy duty pickups, it needs to be mainstreamed in vehicles like the Ford F150 Series — that ’s game changing.

Besides, this problem transcends political boundaries, therefore, the solution will have to as well.

While plug-in cars are an extremely important focus, their near-to-interim potential is limited, very limited. Battery haters are tuned into this fact and they have a legitimate point. Likewise, many on the electrification side hate fracking because there are some environmental dangers, but mostly because they know natural gas is not a real solution, nat goes only offers interim possibilities, and they also have a legitimate point.

But interim possibilities are exactly what America needs today as we continue down the long and arduous journey to full automotive electrification, thus there is a compromise between natural gas and batteries available today, right now, as I’ve argued in my plan for US energy independence.

Again, the energy crisis is a problem that transcends political lines, but there is a solution that can cross these same boundaries and make America a better place for both parties. Sure we can still argue about abortion and condoms and whatever else, but it really is counter-productive to argue about US energy independence when a real, beneficial to all of America, solution is right in front of us.

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