George Bush held Crown Prince Abdullah’s hands and walked down the path to the ranch and once they were inside, pleaded with him to raise oil production. Bush also told the Crown Prince and the ruler of the country that sent 19 hijackers that American families are suffering and it is important to reduce prices. The price of crude oil fell in anticipation. But even if the Saudis pump more oil, there is not enough refining capacity in United States to make gasoline available to the consumer. So we will be pretty much stuck with the $2.50/gallon price tag (After filling gas for $2.70 for past few weeks, I am happy to fill at $2.50).
So will this high price of gasoline (It was $1.60 a year back), cause a change in lifestyle like more carpooling or using public transport ? Not yet. Columnist Tom Friedman in his book The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century argues that the President should have used 9/11 to start a national mission to reduce dependence on Saudi oil by charging more for gas and forcing people to change their lifestyle. The President’s solution is to drill in the Alaska for more oil.
Consumers who pay for gas every week are wiser. They are now opting for more and more hybrid vehicles. In California there was an increase of 103 percent in the sales of hybrid vehicles. Even SUVs and buses are now running on hybrid engines.
But Bob Kuhn, the fleet’s director of transportation, is impressed. So impressed that the bus company intends to replace 45 of its diesel buses with hybrid diesels. That would require approval from California’s Air Resources Board, and is being evaluated by the agency, a spokeswoman said. In all, 10 California transit agencies have asked to use hybrid-diesel buses, including San Francisco’s.
Fuel economy is one reason. Stockton’s hybrid buses are getting 4.9 mpg. That doesn’t sound like much — the five-seat Prius gets 60 mpg in city driving, according to the EPA — but remember that buses seat 34 people, and regular diesel ones get only 3.3 mpg.
“With this technology, we can lower emissions, and it’s not as expensive as we thought it would be,” Kuhn said.
It’s a growing trend. Seattle is now using 235 hybrid buses. Cities as disparate as Honolulu and Albuquerque are trying them out, too. [Hybrid engine technology boards the bus]
It is not just the Japanese car makers who are thinking about fuel efficiency. Few years back when I visited the Los Angeles Auto Show, GM displayed a concept car which was fuel cell powered, and required no gasoline. Finally, the dependence on Saudi Oil will be reduced by the American consumer, by buying more and more such vehicles. It will take a while for these vehicles to be mainstream and till then Oil companies and the Saudis are going to mint money.