From this week's Tuesday Morning Quarterback:
For cars, SUVs and light trucks, there are two forces at play in oil-addiction trends, but only one is generally recognized. Everybody knows the fad of big vehicles increases petroleum needs -- according to the EPA, the average weight of passenger vehicles has risen 30 percent since 1988, while average MPG is down. The other factor, little acknowledged, is horsepower, which has risen even more sharply than weight. Twenty years ago, the average new passenger vehicle sold in the United States had 120 horsepower. For this model year the figure is 230, almost double. There will be no fundamental change in oil import levels until horsepower numbers change.
Like weight, horsepower depresses fuel economy. Simply knocking a third off the horsepower of new U.S. passenger vehicles would, in about a decade -- as efficient new vehicles replace wasteful old ones -- eliminate approximately the amount of oil the United States imports from the Middle East. Yes, it's that simple. Race cars need lots of horsepower; suburban family cars do not. Excessive horsepower causes the United States to be dependent on Middle East dictatorships, engages military commitments to those dictatorships, drives up the price of oil and pushes down the value of the dollar. Horsepower is also the enabler of road rage -- rapid acceleration allows cutting off, drag racing and sudden lane changes. Road rage entered national consciousness as a problem in the mid-1990s, exactly when the horsepower ratings of new vehicles began to spike.