first_imgShareCONTACT: B.J.AlmondPHONE: (713) 348-6770EMAIL: [email protected] RHETORICABOUT ROLE OF SPORT UTILITY VEHICLES IN INCREASING U.S. GASOLINE DEMAND ISOVERSTATEDRice University study examines stats on vehicles and fuelusageThe UnitedStates would be able to shave crude oil imports by only 170,000 barrels a day ifAmerican consumers drove higher-mileage cars instead of sport utility vehiclesor if the fuel efficiency of SUVs matched that of sedans, according to a studyat Rice University’s James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy in Houston.The Institute’sstatistics debunk claims that SUVs have caused greater dependence on Middle Eastoil and are at the root of the country’s energy security problems. “U.S. energy securityconcerns and the fate of gasoline prices derive from a host of complicatedissues,” said Kenneth Medlock, energy research fellow at the Baker Institute,who compiled the statistics. “The SUV craze is only a very smallfactor.”The U.S. Department ofEnergy generally counts SUVs within the class of light trucks, which alsoincludes pickups, vans and minivans. According to the latest Vehicle Inventoryand Use Survey (1997), SUVs accounted for 20.5 percent of the category of lighttrucks — up from 13.2 percent of all light trucks in 1992 — and yielded anaverage annual growth rate of 14.02 percent. The average annualgrowth rate for the entire light truck category was 4.42 percent, with minivanshaving the second highest increase at an average annual rate of 9.92percent.“There has indeed beensignificant growth in the stock of SUVs relative to other light trucks,” Medlocksaid. Projecting these growth rates to 1999, he said SUVs account for about 25percent, or about 18 million, of the 73 million light trucks. In addition, thenumber of pickups and minivans is estimated to be 37 million and 12 million,respectively.According to the EnergyInformation Agency (EIA), the U.S. consumed about 11.9 million barrels of oilper day in the transportation sector in 1999; about 8.9 million barrels per daywere for road transportation. Light trucks accounted for about 2.76 millionbarrels per day, and SUVs accounted for about 25 percent of that amount, orabout 690,000 barrels of crude oil per day. Pickups and minivans accounted forabout 1.35 million and 450,000 barrels per day, respectively. The average “on theroad” fuel economy of vans, pickup trucks and SUVs is 17.4 mpg, but cars average21.5 mpg, the EIA reported. Median mileage ratings for new vehicles are slightlyhigher. If the fuel efficiency of the entire light truck category matched thatof cars, the fuel savings would be more significant — about 690,000 barrels ofcrude oil per day, Medlock said.The majority of growthin on-road fuel demand in the last decade, however, can be traced to otherfactors:–The total number ofvehicles registered in the U.S. has increased by about 12 percent. –Thenumber of miles driven per vehicle has also increased by about 10 percent.–Even though the on-road fuel efficiency of all vehicles has increased(21.5 mpg from 20.2 for cars, 17.1 mpg from 16.1 for light trucks, and 6.5 mpgfrom 6 for heavy trucks), the proportion of less-fuel-efficient vehicles hasincreased. Light trucks account for about 35 percent of all motor vehiclestoday, compared to 25 percent in 1990. The average on-road fuel efficiency forall motor vehicles, therefore, has been stagnant at about 17 mpg. All together,these factors have increased motor-fuel consumption.The composition andcharacteristics of the motor vehicle fleet in the U.S. could have a large impacton reducing U.S. oil demand after 2010, Medlock said. By that year, high-mileageautomobiles such as the gas-electric hybrids could make up as much as 15 to 20percent of new vehicles. This would trim U.S. crude oil demand by about 600,000barrels per day, according to the Baker Institute study. However, between 2010and 2020, as these technologies diffuse into the on-road vehicle stock, theycould begin to make a significant contribution to curbing the growth in energyuse. Several major carcompanies have announced plans to introduce new prototype hybrid cars by2003-2004. However, assuming no major breakthroughs occur in automotivetechnology, IEA projects that 59 percent of the expected increase of 41 millionbarrels per day in worldwide oil demand from 1995 to 2020 will come from thetransportation sector. About admin AddThis last_img read more