Machine Design

Letters - 01/22/2008

Your editorial on gas mileage (“MPG Follies,” Nov. 20) is a perfect example of why U.S. consumerism and selfishness are despised around the world.

Increasing MPG, Increasing consumption
You say “reducing fuel consumption will just encourage people to drive more miles.” What kind of rationalization is that? So should we make more heavy gas guzzlers so people will drive less? Is that your position?

Then you claim to oppose fuel taxes because they makes things more expensive to consumers. Of course they do. Taxes are supposed to encourage people to consume less instead of more.

And using Europe as an example was really a poor choice. Again, I quote your piece: “High fuel taxes in Europe haven’t spawned super-fuel-efficient technologies there”.

What’s that again? In fact, Europe is far more advanced in designing diesel engines than the U.S. will be years from now. And I haven’t heard of Europeans going hungry because of high fuel taxes. What I know is that Europe as a whole is far more environmentally responsible and consumes far fewer natural resources per capita than the U.S.

The United States has 5% of the world population and yet we use about 25% of the world’s oil output. But none of this matters to you. The consumer is king. The rest of the world can take a hike. And we can all thank the great insight from The Cato Institute.

You should have more variety in your editorial content other than continuous “America First” nonsense.

Julio Rodrigues

More-efficient cars lead to more miles driven. That’s not a rationalization. It’s what always happens when tougher CAFE standards go into effect. There has been quite a bit of supporting research on this, but to cite just one source, a 2001 study by the National Research Council found that CAFE “reduces the fuel cost per mile of driving, thereby encouraging faster growth in vehicle travel than would otherwise be the case.”

And if Europe is more advanced in designing diesel engines, that fact is not reflected in mpg ratings. It is important to note that European mpg ratings are often given in imperial gallons which are equivalent to about 1.2 U.S. gallons. That makes the mpg ratings of vehicles there sound impressive. And if Europeans are “environmentally responsible,” it is certainly not because they drive diesels. If you happen to believe CO2 emissions are “environmentally irresponsible,” then you should note that diesel fuel produces about 13% more CO2 per unit of energy than gasoline, at least according to the figures I’ve seen.

Finally, it should also be noted that the U.S. buys oil on the world market from willing sellers at mutually agreed upon prices. We only use as much oil as we are willing to pay for. — Lee Teschler

The demand for gasoline in India and China is increasing as their growing middle classes spend its money on cars. Meanwhile, output and exports from Mexico, Iran, and Venezuela are shrinking as they kick out or reduce the involvement of major oil companies. Given this situation, and oil at over $80 a barrel, the best you can do is quote that bastion of conservatism, the Cato Institute, to tell us that with higher mpg cars, that we will drive more. I think not.

I believe Henry Ford II said: “Lead, follow, or get out of the way”. The countr y needs increased CAFE standards and car companies need a new strategy for making. It is time for them and you to look to the future.

Steve Jasik

If high mpg ratings sell cars, we won’t need CAFE mandates to get high mpg vehicles. The market will take care of that all by itself. And it isn’t just the Cato Institute that noted the tendency to drive more as mpg ratings improve. Studies I’ve seen referenced from the National Research Council and the Brookings Joint Center for Regulatory Studies, among others, say the same thing. And “developing countries” that have kicked out major oil companies have done so to install their own state-run monopolies. Any reductions in oil output from these countries more likely arise from inefficient management rather than from concerted efforts to reduce output.

— Lee Teschler

Editorial appreciation
In this age of self-serving politicians and alarmist environmentalists who frequently ignore most of the facts to get their message out to the gullible public, it is refreshing to read your editorials and see there is someone out there who sees the overall picture. You have consistently recognized the whole pie, not just a preferred slice, and that is rare these days. I’ve thought to write before, but your latest on Toyota’s qualms over mpg follies finally got me “off the dime.”

Dan Higginbotham

You have earned a big “thank you” for your December 13 issue. The article on the engineering shortage is a wonderful gift to those of us who noticed that salaries barely kept up with inflation in the “good years.” Was the market economy not in effect for engineers’ salaries? Now you have published data showing that the supply and demand balance is working, so the shortage scare mongers should not have it so easy as they try to mislead young people. And the insight into the effect grants (or government subsidies) have on researchers’ future employment is priceless. Maybe the nation will recognize the value of having professors actually teach instead of chasing research grants. Maybe too much to hope for.

From the engineering standpoint, the material engineering article on copper alloys is timely and informative. Converting that knowledge into viable products will be a challenge to your readers and great benefit to health.

Richard Merschel

Thank you, but be careful with that stuff. It might go to my head.

— Lee Teschler

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