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Obama's Biggest Opportunity to Save Us Money at the Pump: Call for 60 MPG by 2025

Frances Beinecke

Posted May 9, 2011 in Moving Beyond Oil, Solving Global Warming

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Even after a minor correction in oil markets last week, Americans continue to pay more than $4 a gallon for gas. Experts forecast that gasoline prices will remain high, leaving drivers with steep fuel bills throughout the summer.  

Some lawmakers are using these price spikes to call for more drilling, but their rallying cries are based on a false premise. Economists from across the political spectrum agree that any possible effect of drilling on prices would be delayed and miniscule: prices wouldn’t be influenced until 2030 and even then only by 5 cents a gallon.

Americans need better solutions. This fall, President Obama is slated to release draft clean car standards. If the president raises standards to 60 miles per gallon by 2025, we could cut driver bills at the pump in half.

This means that in the next few weeks Obama will have the single most powerful opportunity to protect Americans from volatile gas prices as this proposed rule goes through the regulatory process.

Today, NRDC and 32 other environmental and public health groups sent a letter to President Obama calling on him to set the strongest standards possible and get America moving down a cleaner, cheaper path.

The benefits would stretch beyond the gas pump. A 60 miles per gallon standard would reduce our nation’s oil consumption by at least 38 billion gallons and cut at least 400 million metric tons of carbon pollution by the year 2030—that’s the equivalent of taking over 100 coal-fired power plants off line.

Americans across the political spectrum overwhelmingly support stronger standards. A recent poll conducted by the Mellman Group found that 83 percent of respondents supported a 60-miles-per-gallon standard, even if it added $3,000 to the price of a new car.

People know they will recoup that initial investment, typically in just four years. Indeed, drivers would see a net savings of more than $7,500 over the life of their vehicles when gas prices average $3.50. At today’s prices, the savings would be even greater. 

It’s long past time for Americans to start enjoying these benefits. In 1991, passenger cars in the United States averaged 21.1 miles per gallon. In 2008, the average inched up to just 22.6 miles per gallon. When it comes to driving more efficient cars, we lost 20 years.

We can build cars in this country that do better, and consumers are eager to buy them. With gas prices hovering above $3.50 per gallon in March, hybrid sales shot up 46 percent compared to a year ago—about three times faster than market average.

That’s a good start, but setting stronger standards will bring the benefits of fuel efficient cars to more Americans. President Obama already understands this. In 2009, he established standards requiring vehicles to reach an average of 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016.

Now is the time to take America to the next level. Drilling for more oil will leave America tied to last century’s engines and prey to explosive gas prices. Embracing 21st century technology and building more efficient cars, in contrast, will make America more competitive and keep more money in our pockets. The choice is clear.

Click here to urge President Obama to set establish new clean cars standards that will take America to 60 miles per gallon by 2025.

 

 

 

 

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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