Expert questions EPA's excitement about fuel efficiency

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COLUMBIA - The EPA said Wednesday fuel economy was at an all time high in the United States. A local energy expert who works closely with the city on energy matters says the celebration isn't warranted.

"It's a little disappointing how much sunshine, roses and unicorns the EPA throws on the fuel efficiency topic like it's some huge triumph to get from 22 to 24 miles a gallon in 30 years," said the owner of H2OC Solar Engineering in Columbia.

Tom O'Connor said there has been a tiny upswing in fuel economy, but it's taken a while.

"30 years ago we were getting an average of 22 miles per gallon, and now 30 years later we're getting 24 miles per gallon, so it doesn't seem like huge progress really," said O'Connor.

O'Connor said the U.S. is moving very slowly to be more fuel efficient, but other countries have already advanced.

He and his wife often travel to the UK, where he says there is more fuel efficiency. 

"We rent cars that get 70 miles or more per gallon and those cars could be Fords," O'Connor said. "I wish we could get them here."

O'Connor said he doesn't know why such cars aren't as readily available in the U.S.

"That's the million dollar question. I don't know. Maybe we're not that sophisticated in some ways. We'll get there," said O'Connor.

"There's a multitude of players. There's a lot of money flowing," said O'Connor. "Petroleum is a world commodity and we spend a lot of money on it."

O'Connor said Columbia sends $100 million or more out of town every year to pay for fuel.

"The folks that receive our $100 million would very much like it to keep going," he said.

O'Connor said there are political, economic, and social factors at play.