Skip to Content

Piecemeal Efforts Fall Short

August 25, 2010

Despite ongoing concerns about the United States’ vast appetite for petroleum in general and foreign oil in particular, Washington has taken only piecemeal measures to address the challenge. Collectively, these efforts will have only a small impact on the amount of oil the country consumes.

In April, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation tightened fuel economy regulations: cars will be required to achieve an average of 35.5 miles per gallon starting in 2016, up from 27.5 today. The EPA expects this change to save 1.8 billion barrels of oil over the lifetime of the vehicles sold under these regulations. But that’s only a bit more oil than the U.S. consumes in three months.

In 2007, Congress passed a bill directing fuel companies to distribute 36 billion gallons of biofuels a year by 2022. That’s a small but significant chunk of the fuel supply: roughly 17 percent of annual gasoline consumption. According to the federal mandates, 21 billion gallons must be advanced biofuels rather than the biofuels that are commercially available now, such as corn-derived ethanol. The technology exists to make these new fuels, which include ethanol made from cellulosic sources such as grasses, and other fuels derived from sources such as algae. But attempts to make them in volume are off to a slow start.

The federal mandates initially required that energy distributors use 100 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol this year, but the EPA scaled this back to 6.5 million gallons because no commercial cellulosic-­ethanol plants have been built yet. The EPA plans to waive next year’s even larger requirements, too. For the foreseeable future, advanced biofuels aren’t going to make much of a dent in petroleum consumption.

Keep Reading

Most Popular

images created by Google Imagen
images created by Google Imagen

The dark secret behind those cute AI-generated animal images

Google Brain has revealed its own image-making AI, called Imagen. But don't expect to see anything that isn't wholesome.

AGI is just chatter for now concept
AGI is just chatter for now concept

The hype around DeepMind’s new AI model misses what’s actually cool about it

Some worry that the chatter about these tools is doing the whole field a disservice.

Hoan Ton-That, CEO of Clearview AI
Hoan Ton-That, CEO of Clearview AI

The walls are closing in on Clearview AI

The controversial face recognition company was just fined $10 million for scraping UK faces from the web. That might not be the end of it.

spaceman on a horse generated by DALL-E
spaceman on a horse generated by DALL-E

This horse-riding astronaut is a milestone in AI’s journey to make sense of the world

OpenAI’s latest picture-making AI is amazing—but raises questions about what we mean by intelligence.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.