New Report: Clean Cars Would Cut Oil Use, Save Pennsylvanians $9.26 Million on Thanksgiving Travel

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PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center

Philadelphia—As Pennsylvanians embark on one of the busiest travel holidays of the year, and just days after the Obama administration proposed new fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks, a new PennEnvironment report finds that more fuel efficient cars would make significant cuts in oil use and save Pennsylvanians roughly $9.26 million at the gas pump this Thanksgiving alone. The report was released following the Obama administration’s November 16, 2011 announcement of proposed new fuel efficiency and global warming pollution standards for cars and light trucks sold from 2017 through 2025.

“On Thanksgiving, Pennsylvanians should be able to travel over the river and through the woods to Thanksgiving dinner, without having to stop at the gas pump,” said Michael Tracht, Federal Field Associate for PennEnvironment.  “Cleaner and more fuel efficient cars would cut pollution and keep enough in each Pennsylvania 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 Pennsylvania families.”

With roughly 604 thousand families taking to the road to visit family and friends this Thanksgiving, Pennsylvanians are expected to spend roughly $19.8 million at the gas pump for their holiday travel.  PennEnvironment pointed to the inefficiency of our cars and trucks as one of the main reasons Pennsylvanians are forced to spend so much at the pump, and why cars consume more oil—and create more pollution—than is necessary. 

“Improving the fuel efficiency of our cars and vehicles is simply common sense,” said U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz, who recently wrote to President Obama commending him for implementing these new standards. “It helps both our state’s economy and the environment, while decreasing our dependence on oil produced by unstable, politically volatile countries.”

The new report, “Gobbling Less Gas for Thanksgiving: How Clean Car Standards Will Cut Oil Use and Save Americans Money,” uses regional Thanksgiving travel projections released last week by AAA to determine how many Pennsylvanians 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 Pennsylvania this Thanksgiving met a standard equivalent to 54.5 miles per gallon, which 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:

  • 2.6 million fewer gallons of oil would be consumed in Pennsylvania
  • Pennsylvanians would save roughly $9.26 million at the gas pump, or $15.31 per family.

“Increasing the fuel efficiency of our cars will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve air quality in Philadelphia, two of the important goals in Greenworks, our comprehensive sustainability plan,” said Katherine Gajewski, Director of Sustainability for the City of Philadelphia. 

While the PennEnvironment 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 nearly 280 million metric tons by 2030, 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 Pennsylvanians $991 million 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 rollout of the Chevrolet Volt and the Nissan Leaf this year, Americans are signaling their desire for more fuel-efficient cars.   

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 54.5-mpg 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 Pennsylvania—that previously adopted state-level standards.

The Obama administration will be conducting a public comment period to gauge support for the proposed standards, and a final standard is expected next summer.  PennEnvironment is part of a broad coalition of groups urging the Administration to keep these historic standards as strong as possible to ensure Pennsylvanians see its full benefits.

“This Thanksgiving, we should give thanks that Pennsylvania’s environment, our economy, our health, and our national security will reap the huge benefits of strong fuel efficiency and pollution standards,” said Tracht.  “We applaud President Obama’s leadership to bring Pennsylvanians the savings we deserve.  Now we need the Obama administration to keep these standards strong in order to make these benefits a reality.”