Clean Cars Would Cut Oil Use, Save Americans $260 Million on Thanksgiving Travel

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Environment Connecticut Research & Policy Center

Washington, D.C. — As Americans prepare for the busiest travel holiday of the year, and days after the Obama administration proposed new fuel efficiency standards for cars and light trucks, a new Environment America report finds that more fuel efficient cars would significantly cut oil use and save Americans nearly $260 million at the pump this Thanksgiving alone. The report was released at an event today following the Obama administration’s announcement last week proposing new fuel efficiency and global warming pollution standards for cars and light trucks sold from 2017 through 2025.  

“With these historic new fuel economy standards, Americans will pay less and travel further over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house for Thanksgiving, cutting oil imports and pollution along the way,” said Representative Ed Markey of the proposed standard. “Because of these standards, we can stop stuffing ourselves with Middle East oil and give thanks for a new path toward energy independence for America.” 

With roughly 17.3 million families taking to the road to visit family and friends this Thanksgiving, Americans are expected to spend roughly $553 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, and why cars consume more oil and create more pollution than is necessary.  

“On Thanksgiving, Americans should be able to travel over the river and through the woods to Thanksgiving dinner, without having to stop at the gas pump,” said Jillian Hertzberg, Federal Clean Vehicles Associate for Environment America. “Cleaner and more fuel efficient cars would cut pollution and keep enough in each family’s wallet this Thanksgiving to bring a few extra pumpkin pies to dinner!  The new clean car standards just proposed by the Obama administration offer an excellent opportunity to bring these benefits to American families.”

Hertzberg was joined at the event by Bob Perciasepe, Deputy Administrator at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and Charlie Garlow, Vice President of the Electric Vehicle Association of Greater D.C., in releasing today’s report. 

“The Obama administration’s new fuel economy and greenhouse gas pollution standards will reduce harmful air pollution and save Americans money at the fuel pump – they benefit our environment and our economy,” said EPA Deputy Administrator Bob Perciasepe. “These standards give American innovators the certainty they need to design a new generation of vehicles that will increase our nation’s energy security and better protect our health and environment.”

“As a U.S. Marine veteran, I know that our economy is bleeding over $1 billion per day to pay for our imported oil addiction. This does not count the cost of the armed forces sent to help unstable governments in oil-rich areas of the world. It also does not count our addiction to domestic oil which brings with it the dangers of oil spills and global warming. Higher mileage standards will decrease those threats and encourage the use of zero-oil electric vehicles powered by American-made electricity,” added Garlow.

The new report, “Gobbling Less Gas for Thanksgiving,” 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 less oil would be used—and how much money would be saved at the gas pump—if the average car taking those trips this Thanksgiving met a standard equivalent to 54.5 miles per gallon—what the Obama administration is proposing new cars and light trucks meet by 2025—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 met a standard equivalent to 54.5 mpg:

  • 75.3 million fewer gallons of oil would be consumed nationwide.
  • Americans would save roughly $260 million at the gas pump, or nearly $15 per family.
  • Americans’ cars and light trucks would emit 730,000 fewer metric tons of global warming pollution.

While the Environment America report examined the potential benefits from just one Thanksgiving weekend’s travel, a separate analysis by the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Union of Concerned Scientists found that a fleet-wide 54.5 mpg equivalent fuel efficiency standard for new cars and light trucks in 2025 would cut global warming pollution by 2030 by nearly 280 million metric tons, equivalent to shutting down roughly 70 coal fired power plants for one year; cut our annual oil consumption by 23 billion gallons—equivalent to our annual imports from Saudi Arabia and Iraq; and save Americans more than $44 billion at the gas pump in 2030.

Realizing that we can and need to go even further, the Obama administration last week proposed new fuel efficiency and global warming pollution standards for cars and light trucks for model years 2017-2025, that would require them to meet the equivalent of a 54.5mpg standard by 2025.  The proposed standard has the support of 13 major automakers, as well as the United Auto Workers and numerous environmental and consumer groups. These national standards grew out of the leadership of 14 states, including Connecticut, which previously adopted state-level standards.

With the high demand following the roll-out of the Chevrolet Volt and the Nissan Leaf this year, Americans are signaling their desire for more fuel efficient cars, and strong clean car standards will accelerate those to the marketplace.  The Obama administration will be conducting a public comment period to gauge public support for the proposed standards, and a final standard is expected next summer. Environment America is part of a broad coalition of groups urging the Administration to keep this historic standard as strong as possible to ensure Americans see the full benefits of the standard. 

“This Thanksgiving, we should give thanks that strong fuel efficiency and pollution standards will reap huge benefits for America’s environment, our economy, our health, and our national security,” said Hertzberg.  “We applaud President Obama’s leadership to bring Americans the savings they deserve. Now we’re counting on the Obama administration to keep these standards strong in order to make these benefits a reality.”