As many of you know, I'm a fan of the free market and less regulation, but given the need to reduce dependence on foreign oil and limit global warming emissions, there are 4 inexpensive items that the DOT and the EPA could adopt for vehicle owners. Each on their own would have significant impact, but on a network wide basis could have a substantial impact on reducing oil consumption and costs to American consumers:
1. E85 everywhere: If each vehicle by model year 2010 could be mandated to be E85 certified, it could allow the US to have greater flexibility against future increases in oil prices. The cost is relatively minor as it's about adjusting fuel lines and gaskets - less than $150 in parts. It would also provide a market for fuel stations to provide ethanol-based pumps to stations around the country. In Brazil, they have created an incredible market for sugar, benefiting their own farmers and countrymen rather than those from unstable oil-rich countries.
2. Tire Pressure Sensor: This would do 2 things, reduce potential accidents and improve gas mileage. Having an accurate tire pressure sensor system could could have an incremental yet significant cumulative effect on gasoline consumption. A few percentage points reduction that change the supply demand picture dramatically. How much does a sensor cost? Very little in mass production.
3. Laser Guided Cruise Control: Cruise control is a nifty little feature when the reads are uncongested. However, anytime there's a little bit of traffic, it uses utility. Laser guided systems slow down to match the speed of the car in front of you. It slows down faster than a human would, making it especially useful in when there's a slowdown. There are studies that have been run that show that if 20% of cars were using this feature, it would reduce traffic congestion dramatically as fewer cars would jam the brakes and cause the typical cascade effect. In many cases, it could eliminate certain areas of congestion altogether. This would have 3 impacts - 1. Increase gas mileage as there would be less idling, 2. Increased productivity as less time would be spent on the roads and 3. Longer road life as it effectively would increase capacity.
4. Electronic Toll Sensor: As inefficient as tolls are from an economics point of view, they are reality. If every car had a toll sensor that would automatically debit a driver's account, it would cut toll congestion dramatically and speed travel throughout the country. We should pick a standard and make it nationwide.
All four items presented about are relatively inexpensive, especially if mandated in volume. It could have dramatic impacts on fuel consumption, leverage with oil producing countries and our quality of life. A 10% increase in fuel efficiency could dramatically impact prices especially during scarcity. Before we change the world with hybrids and hydrogen, why not implement these changes now.