Higher miles per gallon standards would save Californians more than $1 billion dollars annually

New report confirms that technology exists to save consumers money at the gas pump and cut global warming pollution.

provided by Sierra Club

ierra Club and the California Public Interest Research Group (CALPIRG) released a report by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) last month that showed that higher automobile miles-per-gallon standards would save California consumers more than one billion dollars annually. According to the report, Drilling in Detroit: Tapping Automaker Ingenuity to Build Safe and Efficient Automobiles, it would be economically and technically feasible for automakers to meet a standard of more than 40 miles per gallon (mpg) by 2012 and 55 mpg by 2020, nearly a 75 percent increase compared with today's fleet.

    “Making cars go further on a gallon of gasoline is a simple solution to halting the rising gas prices and global warming pollution that we face here in California,” said Bill Magavern, Senior Legislative Representative with Sierra Club California. “Raising auto fuel economy standards is an essential element to a balanced energy plan that offers quicker, cleaner, cheaper and safer energy solutions, and we are disappointed that President Bush is not supporting raising these standards.”

    At a time when gasoline prices are high and the science on global warming is more compelling than ever, President Bush's energy plan focuses on drilling for more oil in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge and other wildlands rather than increasing the use of energy efficient technology. The US Geological Survey predicts that there is only 6 months worth of recoverable oil from the Arctic, and it would take ten years to reach consumers. This small amount of oil would have no impact on the price of gas, but would irreparably harm this pristine wilderness. On the other hand, raising miles-per-gallon standards to 40 mpg for cars and light trucks would save more oil than we get from Persian Gulf imports, the Arctic Wildlife Refuge and California offshore oil drilling combined.

    “Instead of drilling for new oil in public lands, we should tap Detroit's ingenuity to produce cars and trucks that travel 40 miles on each gallon of gas,” said David Friedman, the lead author of the report, and a Senior Analyst for UCS's Clean Vehicles Program. “Using existing technologies, automakers could build vehicles that provide relief for consumers and the environment.”

    Last year, cars and light trucks accounted for more than one-fifth of US global warming pollution, with US emissions amounting to more than most countries release from all sources combined. Scientists link global warming to the rising frequency and severity of extreme weather events.

    “The biggest single step we can take to curb global warming is to make our cars and light trucks go further on a gallon of gas,” said Dan Jacobson, Legislative Advocate for CalPIRG. “It is far past time to implement this step.”

    Congress has not significantly updated fuel economy standards for cars and light trucks since 1985. And as more Americans buy Sport Utility Vehicles, which are allowed to meet lower miles-per-gallon standards than cars, auto fuel efficiency has decreased seven percent since 1987. However, recent polls indicate that 89% of the public supports mandatory increases in fuel efficiency.

    Findings of the report include:

  • Improving standards to 40 mpg would save car owners from $3,000 to more than $5,000 at the gas pump over the life of a vehicle.
  • In California, consumers would enjoy net savings of more than one billion dollars annually after subtracting the projected cost the new technology would add to the sticker price of a vehicle.
  • Improving auto fuel efficiency standards would create 40,000 jobs in the auto industry by 2010.
  • When fully implemented in 2012, a standard of 40 mpg would avert 374 million tons of global warming pollution annually.
  • When fully implemented in 2012, a standard of 40 mpg would already have saved more oil than the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge could produce.
  • Automakers could achieve higher miles-per-gallon standards while maintaining or improving auto safety. This is because a more efficient transfer of power from the engine to the wheels, which has no impact on vehicle safety, would account for most of the increase in fuel efficiency.

    The report is available at www.ucsusa.org.