How to Get the Fuel Efficient Cars We Need

We know that major car manufacturers won’t get serious about increasing the fuel efficiency of their vehicles until government legislation says they have to. This week, the House of Representatives passed a bill to increase those standards to 35 mph. The same bill also requires utility companies to get 15% of their energy from renewable sources by 2020 and ends federal oil and gas subsidies totaling $20 billion dollars. Given what we know about the rate of climate change and the need to decrease carbon output, this bill proposes very modest steps. Nonetheless, they are in a move in a positive direction.
Yet, every major news source predicts that ths bill has zero chance of passing the Senate or getting the signature of the President. How much longer will the oil and gas industry continue to exercise such considerable influence on our country’s leaders?

“We need to change our leaders, not just our lightbulbs,” was a comment overheard at this week’s Electric Vehicle Symposium. While I agree with this statement, I also believe that an industry that has wielded so much control over our legislative system for nearly a century is unlikely to give it up anytime soon.
As business leaders and consumers, we still exercise purchasing power. The entrepreneurial spirit of the electric vehicle industry has led to a recent proliferation of sustainable tranportation options that we can take advantage of. While we may hope for leaders with the tenacity to “just say no to oil,” we can refuse to purchase anymore gas-guzzling machines and opt for cleaner vehicles from companies that share our vision.

Shannon Arvizu, Ph.D., is a clean tech educator and cutting-edge consultant for the auto industry. You can follow her test drives in the cars of the future at

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