Report:

Summer Gas Prices: Beating the Heat with Clean Cars

Released by: Environment America Research & Policy Center

Executive Summary

Rapidly rising gas prices across the country are shining a spotlight on the dire consequences of America’s dependence on oil. Our continued use of oil puts our environment, our health, and our national security at risk, and with prices across the country exceeding $4 per gallon, it is putting an incredible burden on our economy and on American families. Whether we consider these prices at the pump, the scars left by the oil spill disaster in the Gulf, the billion dollars that we send overseas every day, or the nearly 2 billion metric tons of global warming pollution that our oil consumption pumps into the air each year, it has become clear that we must break our dependence on oil. 

The transportation sector accounts for nearly two-thirds of the more than 19 million barrels of oil consumed each day in the United States. The largest percentage is consumed by passenger cars and light duty trucks, such as SUVs, vans, and pickup trucks. Requiring automobile manufacturers to meet strong global warming pollution and fuel efficiency standards represents the greatest opportunity to cut America’s oil consumption, reduce global warming pollution from the transportation sector, and deliver important economic benefits to both consumers and businesses - including saving Americans billions of dollars at the pump. 

The summer travel season is the most popular time of the year for driving, which means it’s also when Americans most feel the most economic pain of our dependence on oil. Americans are expected to spend more than $130 billion at the gas pump this summer.

Our analysis found that if our cars and trucks today met a 60 mpg standard, Americans would save $67 billion at the gas pump and cut gasoline consumption by 17 billion gallons this summer. The average American family would save $513 in just three months. Not only could you afford to drive out to the beach, but now you could book a hotel there and stick around for a week. While families in all 50 states would experience similar savings, those in California, Texas, Pennsylvania, Florida and New York would see the largest overall consumer savings and the largest reductions in gasoline consumption.

American ingenuity has provided the technology to make our current vehicle fleet much cleaner and more fuel efficient. Automakers have developed plug-in hybrid cars that can travel 100 miles on a gallon of gas and U.S. auto dealers are selling electric cars that can go more than 200 miles on one charge. Additionally, several techniques are already being used to make conventional internal combustion engine vehicles more efficient. 

Recognizing this, the Obama administration is currently developing new fleet-wide fuel efficiency and global warming pollution standards for cars and light trucks through 2025. In October, the administration released an analysis that automakers can cost-effectively turn a 60 mile per gallon standard into a reality. By requiring the average cars and light trucks to achieve a standard of at least 60 miles per gallon by 2025, the administration would save Americans $101 billion at the gas pump each year and cut our oil consumption by nearly 3 million barrels of oil per day by 2030—nearly three times the amount of oil we currently import from Saudi Arabia.

It is clear that America has the workforce and the technology to build cleaner, more fuel efficient cars that help break our dangerous dependence on oil. Ending this dependence that threatens our economy, our environment, and our national security will require our leaders to put American ingenuity to work to move us beyond oil. The Obama administration should move clean cars into the fast lane by setting standards that require new cars and light trucks to meet a standard of 60 miles per gallon  by 2025.