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interview > lovins > lovins 30

Lovins 30 (2:03)
Topic(s): Auto Industry / Efficiency / Foreign Oil / Government
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Lovins

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Video Transcript

The last time we paid attention to oil in America was from 1977 to 1985. In those eight years, our economy grew 27 percent, our oil use fell 17 percent, our oil imports fell by half, our oil imports from the Persian Gulf fell 87 percent, and they would have been gone in one more year if we'd kept that up. In fact, so much less oil got used that it cut OPEC's exports in half and it broke their pricing power for a decade because we customers had more market power that the supply cartel did, but our power was on the demand side. We are the Saudi Arabia of mega-barrels and we could save oil faster than they could conveniently sell less oil.

Well, we could rerun that old play all over again much better with today's much more powerful technologies. In those days, we improved our American-made cars by 7.6 miles per gallon—that was the most important single part of that oil saving. It was driven largely by federal efficiency standards and aided by the extra price shock we got in 1979 when the Shah fell.

But today all that ground has been lost, our cars are now at about as heavy as they were in the 1973 oil shock because efficiency succeeded so well that in the mid 80's there was a glut of energy and it crashed the prices and then everybody stopped paying attention. And those within the auto industry that had a visceral aversion to federal standards lobbied so successfully that the standards have been frozen in time for over 20 years, hardly changed at all, while the technology has improved enormously and by law, the rules were supposed to keep up with technology, but that was never done.

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