Warner Pushes for National Speed Limit

In a three page letter to Secretary of Energy Samuel W. Bodman, Sen. John Warner (R-Virg.) suggested that re-instating a national speed limit of 55 miles per hour should be considered to reduce energy consumption and cost. 

Warner proposes precisely the sort of initiative that failed in the past, and — HUMAN EVENTS believes — would fail now, imposing a burden on our economy without noncomitant benefit in decreasing the price consumers pay for gasoline.

After reciting the problem of gasoline prices plaguing our nation for over a page,  Warner recalled the 1974 “Emergency Highway Energy Conservation Act” when a national speed limit was set due to energy shortages due to the Arab oil embargo.

That Act was repealed in 1996 when gas prices lowered significantly. The Department of Energy’s Website notes that speeds over 60mph decrease fuel efficiency but a very recent Rasmussen poll reports that the majority of voters are not in favor of a national speed limit.

Warner, who supports offshore oil drilling and domestic exploration, said he believes “new conservation efforts are the quickest way to see an immediate reduction in the price of gas at the pump.”

Warner’s press office told HUMAN EVENTS that he has asked Bodman and the Department of Energy “to examine the history of the last time America had a national speed limit, and to look at the potential fuel savings and gas-price reductions that would occur if one was enacted again.”

The speed limit — in Warner’s idea — would be one component of government plans to reduce energy consumption and seek more domestic product.

In late June,  a group of Senate Republicans — including Warner as a co-sponsor — unveiled the Gas Price Reduction Act, a four-step plan to “find more, use less,” which includes the promotion of offshore drilling, oil shale exploration, utilizing plug-in electric vehicles and improving the Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) with increased funding, staff and regulation. This Act doesn’t impose a national speed limit for energy conservation (or for any other reason), it does incorporate other bipartisan ideas.

Warner already introduced and passed a voice vote on a Sense of the Senate resolution advising the President to push all government departments to reduce daily energy consumption. In the letter to Bodman, he claims that the administration has yet to effectively respond.

Warner’s letter cites a Congressional Research Survey report which says the 1974 speed limit law reduced oil consumption by 167,000 barrels day. Additionally, traffic fatalities decreased by as many as 4,000, according to the National Academy of Sciences. Despite the positive findings, many Americans would be angered by reimposition of the 55 mph limit, especially at a time when the government isn’t doing anything to reduce gasoline prices.

Warner’s letter also mentioned a recent time when a reporter asked about his personal driving habits, to which Warner responded: “I am willing to give up whatever advantage to me to drive at those speeds with the fervent hope that that modest sacrifice on my part will help those people across this land tonight and tomorrow and in the indefinite future dealing with this financial crisis.”

Warner’s personal choices, though, should not be forced upon the American people.  Most Republicans have other ideas for making energy progress.

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) is focused on lifting regulations and bans on oil exploration and new alternative energy sources, according to Communications Director Wesley Denton.

“The answer to high energy costs is more supply, not more government regulations,” Denton said in the State newspaper of South Carolina.

Capitol Advantage hosts a website asking constituents to deliver their thoughts on a national speed limit to the President and their political leaders.

Warner’s record on environment issues puts him in the middle of earth-loving lefties and anti-climate change righties, having voted yes in 2007 on factoring global warming into federal project planning but voting no to ban drilling in ANWR in 2005.

Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) announced that Democrats and Republicans are working together for a solution on energy policy. Warner was quoted as saying he sees Democrats turning the domestic direction as well.

A Pew Research Center poll found that over 50% of Americans favor drilling in ANWR, up from 42% in February.  The poll also found that 46% of Democrats and 43% of Republicans prefer more local exploration to increased conservation.

While regulation, like the speed limit Warner proposes, may seem like a workable solution, it is one of the least-liked items on the table.

A spokeswoman from the DOE said, "If Congress is serious about addressing gasoline prices, they must take action on expanding domestic oil and natural gas production."

A Senate source expressed there was likely not much support for a national speed limit from either Democrats or Republicans.