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Action to curb petroleum demand

YOUR AUG. 12 editorial ''Holes in the Energy Law" makes appropriate recommendations about the worsening US energy situation. However, our government will need to do even more if we are to make real progress on this major problem.

My field is transportation, which is totally dependent on petroleum-based fuels. Our problem is that US fuel consumption and petroleum imports are steadily rising. I, along with colleagues at MIT, have developed an integrated set of fiscal and regulatory policies that would spread the responsibility for taking action among all the stakeholders: the auto and petroleum industries, government, and especially vehicle purchasers and users.

The intention is to provide reinforcing messages at each stage in our transportation system: vehicle design and production, fuel supply, vehicle purchase, and vehicle refueling. This set of policies would include restructured and more-demanding vehicle fuel economy regulations, significant fees on high-consuming vehicles, and rebates on low-consuming vehicles at the time of purchase, substantially higher fuel taxes at the pump, and required supplements (e.g., biofuels) to our gasoline and diesel fuel supply.

It will take a combination of policies like this to slow the growth, and then decrease our transportation system's petroleum demand. I talk frequently with people in government, in the auto and petroleum industries, and with consumer groups about this. In theory, people usually agree such an approach has merit, but there isn't yet much sign of serious action to curb our petroleum demand.

JOHN B. HEYWOOD

Director
Center for 21st Century Energy
MIT
Cambridge

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