Soaring Gas Prices

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No? You are not happy about our gas prices? Well, honestly I'm not either, but the more I thought about it, the more I came to believe that perhaps our soaring gas prices and dependence on foreign oil has turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

It seems as though the most effective way to reach consumers is through our pocketbook. Once more we are outraged at high fuel prices and demanding something be done about it.

The auto industry has the technology to build fuel efficient cars, it has had much of this technology for decades, but it has not developed this technology into cost effective mass marketed vehicles. Why? Because the consumer has not demanded it. No matter what, the auto industry is and always will be consumer driven.

As long as the consumer continues to purchase what the industry is putting out, they will keep building what they are building. Granted, because of emission controls and higher mileage standards over the years we now have less harmful emissions and better mileage than we did twenty years ago. While this has been a great start we cannot let that become a stopping point.

Let's take realistic look at where we are today and how we, as consumers, can help insure a more cost efficient and healthier future for ourselves, our children and generations to come. We now have hybrid cars that provide much better fuel efficiency and less pollutants, and fuel cell vehicles that use no gasoline and produce no harmful emissions, their only by-product is vapor.

Here are some of the hybrids available now and scheduled for the near future

DaimlerChrysler - Diesel-electric Dodge Ram pickup with 15 percent mileage boost.

Early 2008: Dodge Durango SUV, no details available.

Ford - Escape Hybrid: SUV rated at 36 in city driving with two-wheel-drive model, nearly double that of the gas-only Escape. Highway driving rated at 31 mpg.

October 2005: Mercury Mariner SUV, 33 mpg in the city, 29 on the highway.

2007: Mazda Tribute SUV, no mileage data yet.

2008: Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan sedans, no mileage data yet.

General Motors - GMC Sierra and Chevrolet Silverado pickups increase fuel economy 10-12 percent.

2006: Saturn Vue SUV, with 15 percent mpg increase.

2007: Chevy Tahoe, GMC Yukon, up to 35 percent mpg boost. Chevrolet Malibu, 15 percent increase.

2008: Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups that get up to 35 percent mpg increase.

Honda - Insight: two-door rated at 56 mpg on highway and in city.

Civic Hybrid: four-door rated at 48 mpg on highway and in city.

Accord Hybrid: rated at 37 mpg on the highway, 29 mpg in the city.

Nissan - 2006: Hybrid version of midsize Altima, no details on estimated mileage.

Toyota - Prius: four-door rated at 60 mph in city, 51 mpg on highway.

Lexus RX 400h: SUV rated at 31 mpg in city driving, two thirds more than its gas-only RX 330 sibling.

Highlander Hybrid: SUV is rated at 33/28 mpg in city/highway driving based on two-wheel-drive model.

Spring 2006: Lexus GS 450h sports sedan, mileage in the high twenties and 300-plus horsepower.

Late 2006: Camry, no details on estimated mileage.

Both hybrid and fuel cell vehicles are currently being used in mass transit systems in many selected U.S.cities as well as in Canada and Germany that include city transit buses, taxis, and delivery vehicles such as UPS.

Military vehicles - In April, the U.S. Army took delivery of the modified fuel cell Chevrolet Silverado that is capable of generating 188 kW and 317 foot-pounds of torque, or roughly the motor torque generated by GM's 5.3 liter V-8 engine. This is the first time the vehicle has been driven in California. It will be delivered to the Marines at Camp Pendleton, Calif., later this year for demonstration and evaluation.

"This vehicle has spent the last few months performing civilian-type duty at Ft. Belvoir, Va. where Army soldiers have been evaluating its performance and learning first-hand about hydrogen and fuel cells," said Dr. McClelland, director Tank-Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC) of the U.S. Army.

World's First Individual Fuel Cell Vehicle Customer

California Hydrogen Highway - The Spallino family, living in the Los Angeles area, will be among the first individuals to begin utilizing the first of California's Hydrogen Highway refueling stations, a statewide infrastructure build out underway to offer hydrogen refueling station access to private individuals. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger announced the state's commitment to a Hydrogen Highway in April of this year, creating a public and private partnership to build California's Hydrogen Highway by 2010

In the Chino project, Hyundai Tucson and Kia Sportage SUVs, powered by fuel cells manufactured by UTC Fuel Cells, will operate throughout Southern California and refuel at the ChevronTexaco hydrogen station. Of particular importance is the on-site production of hydrogen from natural gas. Natural gas, with an existing distribution infrastructure, is critical to the eventual transition to the hydrogen economy. This station will also have the future capability to convert other renewable fuel sources, such as ethanol, into hydrogen for refueling fuel cell vehicles.

Hydrogen Fueling Station - The EPA has commissioned a hydrogen fueling station at its National Vehicle and Fuel Emissions Lab in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The station provides compressed hydrogen gas for hydrogen vehicles in Southeast Michigan.

The lab in Ann Arbor, Michigan is the first federal facility to install such a vehicle fueling station. This state-of-the art station serves as a real world example for others of the safe installation and operation of a hydrogen fueling station. In addition to supporting the Fuel Cell Delivery Vehicle Testing Program, this station will also be used for the fueling of hydrogen fueled vehicles deployed in the future in Michigan.

So perhaps our future is looking brighter with less dependence on foreign oil and a good beginning for achieving cleaner air and a healthier environment for everyone. But it rests in our hands, each of us, the consumers, and what choices we make that will determine our future.