Cleaner Cars Would Cut Oil Use, Save Rhode Islanders $800 Thousand on Thanksgiving Travel

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Environment Rhode Island

Providence, RI — As Rhode Island residents prepare for one of the busiest travel days of the year, and just days after the Obama administration proposed new fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks, a new Environment Rhode Island report finds that more fuel efficient cars would make significant cuts in oil use and save Rhode Island travelers roughly $800 thousand at the gas pump this Thanksgiving holiday alone. The report was released following the Obama administration’s November 16 announcement of proposed new fuel efficiency and global warming pollution standards for cars and light trucks sold from 2017 through 2025.

“On a high travel day like Thanksgiving, the constraints of high gas prices and resulting travel costs are more apparent than ever,” said Channing Jones, Field Associate for Environment Rhode Island. “Cleaner and more fuel efficient cars would cut pollution and deliver significant savings to consumers. The new clean car standards just proposed by the Obama administration offer an excellent opportunity to bring these types of benefits to Rhode Island families.”

With roughly 52 thousand Rhode Island families taking to the road to visit family and friends this Thanksgiving, households are expected to spend roughly $1.71 million at the gas pump for their holiday travel. Environment Rhode Island pointed to the inefficiency of our cars and trucks as a primary reason why Rhode Islanders must spend so much at the pump, and why the state continues to depend so heavily on oil.

Environment Rhode Island’s 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 Rhode Island families will be traveling more than 50 miles by car this Thanksgiving. The report then estimates 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 Rhode Island this Thanksgiving met the 54.5 miles-per-gallon fuel efficiency standard the Obama administration is proposing for new cars and light trucks by model year 2025. This is a drastic reduction from 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:

  • 224 thousand fewer gallons of oil would be consumed in Rhode Island.
  • People in Rhode Island would save roughly $800 thousand at the gas pump, or about $16 per family.

While Environment Rhode Island’s report examined the benefits potentially realized over just one Thanksgiving holiday weekend, 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. In addition, the standard could cut United States annual oil consumption by 23 billion gallons—equivalent to annual imports from Saudi Arabia and Iraq––and in Rhode Island save families $148 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 could be manufactured with more efficient engines and lighter materials, while existing hybrids and plug-in electric vehicles already go dramatically farther on a gallon of gas. With the high demand following the introductions of both 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 the availability of these and similar models in the marketplace.

Earlier this week, the Obama administration 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 Rhode Island—that previously adopted state-level standards.

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 Rhode Island is part of a broad coalition of groups urging the Administration to keep these historic standards as strong as possible to ensure that people of Rhode Island see the full benefits of the standard. The Sierra Club of Rhode Island has also joined Environment Rhode Island in calling for the strongest possible standards.

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