IN RECENT MONTHS, plenty of talk has come out of Washington
about lowering gas prices, from drilling off the U.S. coasts to suspending the gas tax to building more refineries. The one thing all of these
proposals have in common is that none are expected to have any effect
on gas prices in the near term.
According to Benjamin Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve,
the only way to cut the cost of gasoline is to reduce demand. That is why I introduced HR
6458, a bill that establishes a national speed limit of 60 mph in urban areas and 65 mph along
less populated stretches.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Energy Information Administration
show a clear link between speed and fuel efficiency, estimating that for every 5 mph over 60
that a motorist drives, fuel consumption increases by 10 percent. At $4 per gallon (a steal in
my part of the country), slowing from 65 mph to 60 is like saving 40 cents per gallon of gas.
By using less gasoline, we decrease our dependence on foreign oil. Throughout history,
Americans have been asked to sacrifice at times of war, such as during World War II, when
our parents and grandparents planted victory gardens. During six years of war in Iraq and
Afghanistan, the only Americans asked to sacrifice are the courageous men and women serving in uniform and their families. By simply reducing our highway speed by 5 mph, we can
support our troops, increase the worldwide supply of oil and loosen the stranglehold foreign
powers have on the U.S. economy and national security.
Using less gas also reduces the amount of carbon pumped into the atmosphere, which
helps combat global warming and improves the air quality for all. Over the long term,
Congress must pursue a course that takes the U.S. off fossil fuels. Right now, we can save gas,
save money, reduce pollution, support the troops and send a message to the Organization
of Oil Exporting Countries (OPEC) and the oil companies that the American people, when
united, can accomplish anything. C
U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier ( ), Democrat,
represents northern California’s 12th Congressional District.
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U.S. Rep. Ted Poe ( ), Republican,
represents Texas’ 2nd District.
SOME SUGGEST THAT we should establish a national speed limit as
a means of lowering American consumption of fuel. I disagree. It is best
left to state officials to set and enforce speed limits according to their
state’s unique needs, not the federal government.
My home state of Texas would be poorly served by a national
maximum speed limit, as would many other states. Texas is known
for its size and diversity. It is home to six major metropolitan areas, including Houston,
San Antonio and Dallas—three of the nation’s top 10 cities in terms of population. However,
in other parts of the state, we have counties with as few as 15 people per square mile. Road
travel is particularly time consuming in sparsely populated areas of the state. The Texas
Transportation Commission increased the speed limit to 80 miles per hour in select low-population counties, and a new federal regulation would not serve urban communities and
sparsely populated rural areas economically.
The Texas Department of Transportation reports that motorists are less likely to obey
unreasonably low speed limits and can actually make roads less safe, as vehicles will travel
at broader ranges of speed. Road conditions are safest when motorists drive at similar rates
The effectiveness of a national speed limit was tested when one was passed in response
to the oil crisis in the 1970s. The law was widely disregarded by motorists, and net fuel
savings were reportedly as low as half a percentage point. In 1995, it was repealed.
Finally, motorists are known to self-regulate speed and driving frequency when gas
prices become burdensome. Congress should focus its efforts, not on greater regulation
and more federal mandates, but on the core cause of rising gas prices: insufficient supply
to meet rising demand.
We must take an all-of-the-above approach to solving the energy crisis. A national
speed limit is a nominal solution and would only cause the federal government to overreach
into decisions that are best left to each state. C
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