Everyone to scurred to leave the house = no demand but high supply?
I have no idea what caused the gas prices to drop after 9/11. My wife tells me that some gas stations in Utah were charging $5/gallon, probably under the assumption that oil would no longer be available or something.
Anyway, I remember gas prices falling below a dollar, and then steadily rising and rising, where they peaked after Katrina last year.
The auto industry won't give us the best they can, however.
Even in the 70s, we could have had 50-60 mpg midsize cars with powerful engines through adressing aerodynamic drag, but the auto industry just refused to go there. If the best the industry could do was a 48 mpg diesel Rabbit compact that takes 20 seconds to go from 0-60, that right there tells us there are problems in the industry. The Viking Rearch Institute at Western Washington University was building 80 mpg sportscars that did 0-60 mph in 5 seconds and topped 170 mph in the 1970s! How? Making a body with a small frontal area around 15 feet square and a .18 drag coefficient! Compare to the Lamborghinis and Ferraris of the era that had similar performance but got like 8-10 mpg.
A typical car in the 70s had a .4 Cd. Cars today have about a .35 Cd. Even though they might look streamlined, they really haven't gotten much better. The most aerodynamic cars on the market are the Honda Insight and Toyota Prius hybrids, with a .25 and .26 drag coefficient, respectively. This is hardly better than the 1928 Rumpler, with a .27 drag coefficient. The pinnacle of what the auto industry is willing to bare today has a body that is barely more efficient than a car that is 80 years old!
In 1933, Buckminster Fuller made his Dymaxion, with a .25 Cd. In 1935 came the Tatra T77a, a full size luxury car with a .21 Cd. In 1954, we had the Hotchkiss Gregiore and Fiat Turbina, with .26 and .14 Cd respectively. In 1957 there was the Alfa Romeo BAT7, with a .19 Cd. 1985 yielded the Ford Probe V, with a .137 Cd, 1987 the GM Citation IV with a .19 Cd, 1996 the Dodge Intrepid ESX2 with a .19 Cd, 2000 the GM Precept with .16 Cd. The auto industry has proven they can make aero designs, but refuses to mass produce and sell them. Small businesses have made such cars with great success in the distant past, but political wrangling by the larger industries and various historical circumstances lead to their demise(ie. Buckminster Fuller was refused production of his Dymaxion with executives telling him outright that his design was too advanced and they'd have nothing more advanced to sell for years to come. WWII bankrupted Tatra, but their cars were a big hit for being fuel efficient, big, AND fast.) The auto industry doesn't make aero designs precisely because they want to slowly ration out technological advancements to maximize profit on each one. Even today's hybrids have technology that was first used in our deisel locomotives in the 1940s. The current cars available to the mass market in the U.S. are about 50 years outdated in most of their technology(barring the complex and expensive to maintain computer crap). Essentially 1950s dinosaurs with fancy electronics, tacky bubble shaped designs that look aerodynamic but really aren't, and crumple zones; not much else to them.
We could today have a midsize car with a 200 horsepower turbodiesel that would get 80 mpg. How? Low aero drag, LRR tires, and synthetic transmission oil all in the same car. Such a car would be longer than a typical car today, have more storage space, more leg room and headroom. No new technology needed, everything available right off the shelf. The biggest gain in fuel economy would be from drag reduction. This wouldn't be no econobox, but a car at least the size of a Toyota Camry or Ford Fusion, if not larger. Keep all the GPS and TV crap out of the car, and weight could be kept at a reasonable 2,900-3,000 pounds. 0-60 mph would be around 6-7 seconds and a very high top speed(~180 mph with no governor, but lack of sufficient downforce may require an electronic limitation at say, 150, for safety purposes). Pricetag? Perhaps only $20,000. And we haven't even added a hybrid drive yet! Now wouldn't that thing sell like mad? Too bad the profit margins aren't like the $12,000 seen on today's SUVs... Money talks and bull**** walks, bull**** even meaning consumer demand for fuel economy as far as the auto companies are concerned.
Alternative fuel vehicles? Forget it. We had the technology for pure electric cars with 200-300 mile range and fast acceleration since the 1990s. Studies have repeatedly pegged the initial market at a minimum of 12% of new cars(In that particular instance of 12%, this was for an electric car with 80 miles range. It would be a lot higher if repeated for say, 200 miles range). The auto industry flat out refuses to make them because the cars will last much longer and cost much less to run for the consumer, reducing profit margins for the industry as a result of decreased revenue. The auto industry doesn't want you driving around in a car that will last 50 years and have a motor that lasts 500,000+ miles without ever needing maintainance. Gasoline for automobiles is 45% of America's oil consumption as well, so naturally the oil and auto industry teamed up to kill the EV. Add in the G7 nations making more money in oil tax revenues than OPEC and it's quite obvious why we don't have EVs. We won't have electric cars unless they are mandated. The demand is there and the 'market' refuses to bare. The liklihood of a sucessfully executed mandate is very slim given that the two main parties are steadfastly against this technology taking hold(the auto industry is 5% of America's GDP and the government doesn't want to have negative economic growth and reduced tax revenues. Add in all the auto/oil industry lobbying and 'we the people' end up ignored). Don't even make me mention Europe's tax happy politicians and their aversion to reducing revenues...
We would also have biodiesel widely available in the U.S. if there were a plant that had a consistently positive energy return of energy invested and require little or no fertilizer or pesticide inputs. Soybeans and corn just can't do it. What can? Industrial hemp. But big government refuses to give farmers the permits to grow it. Realistically, without stripping the remainder of the wilderness and instead simply using what farmland we have developed, we could meet the equivalent of roughly 20% of America's oil needs from hemp based biofuels without compromising food production. This may not seem like much, but if you couple it with hyper efficient biodiesel cars that get 60-100 mpg, it will go a very long way. But legalize this wonder plant, and Monsanto, DuPont, Standard Oil, and all of these other entreched industries will ***** like crazy because it threatens their bottom line. In fact, in the 1930s, it was William Randolph Hearst of the wood paper industry along with the steel industry and petrochemical industries like DuPont that helped kill its prospects in America. They lobbied the politicians to keep this plant from being used in a manner beneifical to society. This plant could even make car body panels 10 times more dent resistant than steel with 1/3 the weight, as demonstrated by Henry Ford's hemp-bodied Model A.
Look where we are now. Approaching or having already passed peak oil, with very serious implications to our living standards, our security, and our long term future. Yet there are solutions all around us, being denied to us this entire time. But instead of adopting these solutions, we have oil wars, to keep the money flowing to those on the top. Now China and India want to motorize, banning bicycles from the roads and dismantling mass transit to force car consumption in effort to induce economic growth, the same exact mistakes America's government made in the 1940s...
For us Americans, unfortunately that is the only way to get one.
Europe has the Audi A2 TDi 3L, gets about 70 mpg, 0-60 mph in 14 seconds, top speed of 110, seats 4 adults, .26 drag coefficient. That is the best the auto industry is willing to offer there; combining fuel efficient with slow and small. Lower the drag coefficient to say .16, elongate the car into a luxury saloon that weighs ~3,200 pounds, and add a V8 diesel, and roughly the same fuel economy could be kept with outrageously high performance, increased room, and increased storage space. Thier current diesel V8 A8 luxury sedan gets about 35 mpg, .26 drag coefficient, and 5,000 pounds weight. Why not build a more efficient car with the same engine for a normal family? Oh yeah, that's right, then it would be competing with $100,000-$250,000 luxury sedans in performance but with only a $25k pricetag and rapidly outsell all the other 'fuel efficient' cars on the market. Free market, my ***!
Got gas today went up 11 cents a gallon in 6 days currently $2.569 for regular Hess. I filled my xB until it was dripping on the ground which will result in a little less MPG reading for this past 3/4 tank.
Toecutter is absolutely right. We could have high fuel economy without much sacrifice. It's not rocket science.
Example: The Toyota Corolla already has a 1.8 liter engine with 41 mpg highway. Toyota could make a "FE" version with the 1.5 liter Scion engine, taller, wide ratio gearing, LRR tires, a belly pan and other aero tweaks. At a non-hybrid price.
But instead, they bring over the Yaris, which has WORSE EPA fuel economy than the manual Corolla. And just TRY to find a manual Corolla on a dealer lot. They don't make enough. Morons.
Capitalism: The cream rises. Socialism: The scum rises.
If you looked under the hood of my xB you would see how tall the engine is - I don't think they could fit it in a lower vehicle. The Corolla is for poor people that can't drive a stick - rather a real sports car stick driver wouldn't by a corolla - just my 5 cents worth.