Clean Cars Would Save Americans $234 Million on Thanksgiving Travel

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Nathan Willcox

Environment America Research & Policy Center

WASHINGTON, D.C. — As Americans prepare for one of the busiest travel holidays of the year, a new Environment America Reasearch & Policy Center report finds that more fuel efficient cars would save Americans roughly $234 million at the gas pump this Thanksgiving alone. The report was released as the Obama administration develops new fuel efficiency and global warming pollution standards for cars and light trucks.

“This Thanksgiving, Americans should be focused on clearing their plates, not clearing out their wallets at the gas pump,” said Alex Wall, Global Warming Associate for Environment America.  “Cleaner cars would save each American family roughly $12 this Thanksgiving—enough to bring a few extra pumpkin pies to dinner.”

With more than 19 million families taking to the road to visit family and friends this Thanksgiving, Americans are expected to spend roughly $418 million at the gas pump for their holiday travel. Environment America pointed to the inefficiency of our cars and trucks as one of the main reasons Americans are forced to spend so much at the pump.

“Making our cars go farther on a gallon of gas is one of the best ways to help America’s economy and our environment at the same time,” added Wall. “We need to reduce our country’s dependence on oil, and cleaner cars are one of the best ways to do that.”

Environment America was joined by Delaware Senator Tom Carper in calling for making America’s cars cleaner and more efficient.

“I support higher fuel economy standards because my consistent goal has been to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and reduce emissions of harmful air pollutants, while continuing to support and enhance the competitiveness of our domestic auto industry,” said Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.).  “These ambitious new fuel economy standards will help us accomplish all of these important goals, ensuring that the next generation of cleaner, more fuel efficient cars sold here and around the world are made right here in Delaware and the other states in the U.S.A.”

The new report, “Gobbling Less Gas for Thanksgiving: How Clean Cars Can Save Americans Money and Cut Oil Use,” used regional Thanksgiving travel projections released last week by AAA to determine how many Americans would be traveling more than 50 miles by car this Thanksgiving. The report then estimated how much money would be saved at the gas pump—and how much less oil would be used—if the average car taking those trips across the country this Thanksgiving got 60 miles per gallon instead of the current 26.4 miles per gallon.

The report estimated the following benefits would be realized over the Thanksgiving holiday if the average car got 60 miles per gallon:

  • Americans would save roughly $234 million at the gas pump, or $12 per family.
  • Roughly 80 million fewer gallons of oil would be consumed in America.

While the Environment America report examined the potential benefits from just one holiday weekend’s worth of travel, a separate analysis by the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Union of Concerned Scientists found that a fleet-wide 60 miles per gallon fuel efficiency standard for new cars and light trucks in 2025 would save Americans $101  billion at the gas pump in 2030.  

Multiple studies have shown that the technology exists today to make our cars and trucks much cleaner and more fuel efficient.  Conventional cars and trucks can be made with more efficient engines and more lightweight materials, while hybrids and plug-in electric vehicles can go dramatically farther on a gallon of gas.  

Recognizing all of this, the Obama administration recently finalized clean car standards for cars and light trucks, covering model years 2012-2016, which represented the largest increase in fuel efficiency in more than 30 years and the first-ever global warming tailpipe pollution standards.  But realizing that we can and need to go even further, the Obama administration is currently developing new fuel efficiency and global warming pollution standards for cars and light trucks for model years 2017-2025.  Environment America is part of a broad coalition of groups urging the Administration to move clean cars into the fast lane by making 60 mile per gallon cars the norm instead of the exception to the rule.

“We should give thanks this Thanksgiving that clean cars can reap huge benefits for America’s economy and our environment,” said Wall.  “Now we need the Obama administration to push ahead with the clean car standards that will make these benefits a reality.”