Drill bit

We’d like to direct your attention toward the Union of Concerned Scientists and its recent report titled "Drilling in Detroit.”

No, it didn’t concern any plans by Gov. John Engler to start exploring for crude beneath the city’s eponymous river (although, given the current administration’s philosophy, the idea isn’t beyond the realm of possibility). Instead, the report’s subtitle says it all: Tapping Automaker Ingenuity to Build Safe and Efficient Automobiles.

“Instead of drilling for new oil in public lands, we should tap Detroit’s ingenuity to produce cars and trucks that travel 40 miles on each gallon of gas,” said analyst David Friedman.

The technology is available, say the report’s authors, but the government is allowing automakers to drag their feet when it comes to implementation. The average fuel economy for new passenger vehicles peaked way back in the previous millennium — 1988, to be exact, according to the report.

If we could see the average increase from the current 24 miles per gallon to 40 mpg by the year 2012, American consumers would save nearly $10 billion per year and global warming pollutants would be reduced by 273 million tons.

The cynics among us might point out that there’s a pair of big-oil boys atop the executive branch in D.C., so the odds are we’ll see derricks sprouting on Belle Isle before that 40 mpg average becomes something more than a tailpipe dream. But we here at News Hits, ever the optimists, thinks if things keep going the way they are at the gas pumps, consumers just may force automakers to do the right thing.

To read the report on the Web visit www.ucsusa.org.

News Hits is edited by MT news editor Curt Guyette. Contact the column at 313-202-8004 or [email protected]