Kicking Petroleum Dependency

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Contrary to the conclusions of the article "Energy Department Split Over Fuel Economy," March 25, there is no inconsistency between current Department of Energy (DOE) estimates of the oil savings attributed to the Bryan Bill, and policy analyst Barry McNutt's memo. DOE analysts, including Mr. McNutt, estimate that a 40 m.p.g. Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standard for model year 2000, if it were feasible to achieve, would result in potential oil savings of about 1 million barrels per day in the year 2010, and not 2.5 million b/d in 2005, as claimed by Bryan Bill Supporters. In the year 2005, the oil savings potential would be in the range of 500,000 b/d.

The estimates of oil savings in the McNutt memo are not related to the Bryan Bill at all. They represent the maximum potential oil savings that could be expected in the post-2010 period if all cost-effective fuel efficiency technology were adopted in most vehicles in the next 10 to 15 years, and if the technology impact would not have to be traded to meet other vehicle requirements such as emission controls and greater safety. The basis for the oil savings that proponents of the Bryan Bill claim has nev er been made public. The DOE, by contrast, has explained publicly its calculations.

Because of uncertainty about feasibility levels of future fuel economy standards, the Department of Transportation has requested a comprehensive assessment of fuel economy potential by the National Academy of Science. The initial results of this assessment should be available by mid-1991. Until then, action on future CAFE standards is premature and risks significant adverse safety and economic consequences.

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In any case, whatever CAFE standards are finally set will only marginally affect the use of oil in the transportation sector.

We believe that the large investments that would be required to comply with the Bryan Bill would be more effective if directed at substantially reducing the transportation sector's near-total dependence on oil, and if focused on research and development efforts to obtain real rather than marginal increases in engine efficiency. The National Energy Strategy provides regulatory and R&D incentives aimed at displacing, not simply reducing, oil consumption in US transportation.

Mary Kayne Heinze, Washington, US Department of Energy

US debt incurred to battle pirates? The article "The US Economy Plods Under Burden of Foreign Debt," April 2, contains many wise observations. However, the assumption that corporations borrowed excessively in an attempt to increase profits is in error. The Reagan and Bush administrations' failure to enforce antitrust laws forced businesses to assume huge debts to protect themselves from corporate raiders.

Paul Bynum, Santa Maria, Calif.

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