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Reader's View: Blame gas prices on the vehicles we choose

The U.S. auto industry began intensive marketing of more-profitable, big, and heavy SUVs and pickup trucks, which have dominated sales for decades.

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In the news, we are bombarded with scenes of people filling their gas tanks and nearby eye-popping pump prices, along with the owners complaining and blaming it all on President Joe Biden. This calls for a bit of historical perspective for context.

The gas-price rollercoaster can be said to have started with the 1973 Yom Kippur War, which precipitated the “Arab Oil Embargo” by OPEC, the Organization of Oil Exporting Countries. This drastic supply constriction in non-Arab states caused huge price increases. This eventually resulted in two developments related to supply and demand: conservation and supply increase.

First, President Jimmy Carter and the greening of America in the 1970s championed smaller, lighter cars, and the government established ambitious CAFÉ (Corporate Average Fuel Efficiency) standards. European and Japanese/Korean companies happily supplied compact cars, but American companies dragged their wheels, unhappy with the lower profit per vehicle.

Second, the high oil prices spurred the oil industry to expand exploration; and by the time Ronald Reagan became president, they were discovering more and more oil. This led to an easing of gas prices and a back-tracking on the CAFÉ standards.

Eventually, the U.S. auto industry began intensive marketing of more-profitable, big, and heavy SUVs and pickup trucks, which have dominated sales for decades. This happened even as public awareness of the looming global-warming juggernaut increased in the 2000s.

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Coming back to our current issues, it would be interesting and informative if news reporters would ask the shocked — shocked! — gas-tank fillers what kind of vehicle they drove. Could our own choices have something to do with the problem?

And it is national policy, after all, to decrease our use of fossil fuels, for our own good.

John C. Green

Duluth

The writer is a retired geologist.

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