Everyone’s looking for a solution to high gas prices. Well, here’s a novel concept: we could just use less fuel.
According to a new analysis from the Natural Resources Defense Council, increasing our average vehicle fleet efficiency to 54.5 miles per gallon would save consumers $68 billion per year after 2030 when new mileage standards have been fully met.
By bumping up the fuel efficiency of our nation’s vehicles to that target, NRDC estimates that the amount of oil saved per day in 2030 would equal today’s combined imports from Saudi Arabia and Iraq. The emissions reductions would also be substantial — cutting enough carbon dioxide to equal the shut-down of 76 coal-fired power plants.
Last July, the White House announced a plan to increase fuel efficiency from 21 mpg today to 54.5 mpg by 2025. The targets, which would spur new manufacturing activity in America’s auto sector, had strong support from labor unions and most major auto manufacturers. Over the life of the program, the cumulative savings would be more than a trillion and a half dollars, according to the Obama Administration.
To date, these fuel efficiency standards are one of the most credible policy solutions to addressing high gas prices.
The “drill baby drill” crowd falsely believes that more fossil fuel extraction is the answer. But as numerous analyses have pointed out, including one from the Associated Press, more domestic drilling simply does not correlate with lower prices at the pump.
Excessive speculation is also a key target for many lawmakers. While some economists say speculation in the oil markets has raised oil prices by 15% in the last decade, any short term efforts to crack down on the problem don’t really address the real issue: Investors believe that oil prices will continue to go up, largely because of booming global demand, finite supply, and continued conflict around the world.
Alternatives to petroleum like electric vehicles and advanced biofuels are extraordinarily important and will be a major piece of the solution. However, these two sectors are facing a number of financial, technical and consumer-demand challenges, making the extent of their role still uncertain.
Increasing fuel efficiency standards is a proven, tangible solution that can help us reduce petroleum use and help save consumers money. Although such targets may increase the cost of a vehicle by as much as $2,000, NRDC estimates that the savings in gas use would be as high as $6,400 — netting consumers roughly $4,400 over the lifetime of a vehicle.
And Americans say they’d make the investment. Last year, Consumer Reports issued a poll showing that 58% of Americans were willing to pay more up front for an increase in fuel efficiency. Around the same time last year, the Consumer Federation of America released a survey showing that three quarters of Americans supported an increase in fuel economy standards, with a 65% wanting aggressive targets of 60 mpg by 2025.
With manufacturers, labor unions, and consumers all throwing their support behind fuel efficiency, this should be a policy solution that our nation’s policymakers should be able to agree on.