Clean Cars would Save Illinoisans $11 Million this Thanksgiving Weekend

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Bruce Ratain

Environment Illinois Research and Education Center

As Illinoisans prepare for one of the busiest travel holidays of the year, a new Environment Illinois report finds that more efficient cars would make significant cuts in oil use and save Illinoisans over $11 million dollars at the gas pump this Thanksgiving alone. The report was released following the Obama administration’s November 16 proposal of new fuel efficiency and global warming pollution standards for cars and light trucks sold from 2017 through 2025. 

“On Thanksgiving, Illinoisans should be able to travel over the river and through the woods to Thanksgiving dinner, without having to stop at the gas pump,” said Mallory Mattimore-Malan, Campaign Coordinator for Environment Illinois. “Cleaner and more fuel-efficient cars would cut pollution and keep enough in each Illinois 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 types of benefits to Illinois families.”

“The need to reduce our country’s dependence on foreign oil cannot be overstated”, said Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (Illinois’ 9th District), who joined Environment Illinois at the report release. “It is important to protect our pocketbooks and save families money, but it is equally critical for our national security and environment”.

With almost 800,000 families taking to the road to visit family and friends this Thanksgiving, Illinoisans are expected to spend roughly $25 million at the gas pump for their holiday travel. Environment Illinois pointed to the inefficiency of our cars and trucks as one of the main reasons Illinoisans are forced to spend so much at the pump, and why cars consume more oil—and create more pollution—than is necessary.  

The new report, “Gobbling Less Gas for Thanksgiving: How Clean Car Standards Will Cut Oil Use and  Save Americans Money,” used regional Thanksgiving travel projections released last week by AAA to determine how many Illinoisans 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 in Illinois 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: 

  • 3,438,000 fewer gallons of oil would be consumed in Illinois.
  • $11.7 million dollars would be saved at the gas pump, or $15 per family.
  • 33,396 fewer metric tons of global warming pollution would be emitted by Illinoisans’ cars and light trucks.

While the Environment Illinois report examined the potential benefits from just one Thanksgiving 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 54.5 miles per gallon 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 Illinoisans $1.2 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. 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.   

“We need to reduce our country’s dependence on oil, and cleaner cars are one of the best ways to do that”, noted Kathleen Woodruff, Illinois Field Organizer with Transportation for America.

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 new cars and light trucks 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. 

“The new fuel efficiency standards will save American families over a trillion dollars in fuel costs and cut the amount of oil imported every day by half” noted Congresswoman Schakowsky. “I applaud the Obama Administration for taking the bull by the horns”. 

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 Illinois is part of a broad coalition of groups urging the Administration to keep these historic standards as strong as possible to ensure Illinoisans 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 Illinois’s environment, our economy, our health, and our national security,” said Mattimore-Malan. “We applaud President Obama’s leadership to bring Illinoisans the savings they deserve. Now we need the Obama administration to keep these standards strong in order to make these benefits a reality.”

Read the full report here.