Simone Balog: Breaking our dangerous addiction to oil
September 18, 2010
The United States needs to reduce our oil dependence as quickly as possible. We cannot continue to depend on an energy source that changes our climate, costs American families hundreds of billions of dollars in imported fuel every year, and devastates our shores from the Gulf of Mexico to the Kalamazoo River. The vast majority of our oil use comes from transportation, which means that reducing our dependence on oil requires building better cars and trucks that get people around using less fuel.
The good news is that American ingenuity has given us the clean car technologies today to make cars and trucks that go much farther on a gallon of gas. Better yet, we have electric vehicles that don’t need any gas at all. Already, automakers have developed plug-in hybrid cars that can travel 100 miles on a gallon of gas, and electric cars that can go over 200 miles on one charge are being sold in the U.S. today.
We need to become the global leader in developing these new vehicle technologies. Advanced vehicles have the potential to cut our global warming pollution from the transportation sector in half over the next 20 years, while cutting other air pollutants and preventing millions of asthma attacks and respiratory problems. This will in turn save our health care system hundreds of billions of dollars. Further, reducing our dependence on oil is the only certain way we can prevent future catastrophic disasters like the Gulf oil spill.
This fall, President Obama has an important opportunity to help make this vision a reality, when his administration begins developing new fuel efficiency and global warming pollution standards for cars and trucks. The standards for cars would extend through 2025, while the standards for delivery trucks and tractor trailers would be the first-ever global warming pollution standards for a set of vehicles that makes up only 4 percent of the vehicles on the road, but spews 21 percent of transportation-sector air pollution.
Strong standards that ensure our cars average at least 60 miles per gallon by 2025 would save nearly 3 million barrels of oil per day in 2030 – nearly three times the amount of oil we currently import from Saudi Arabia. And requiring that the average car be able to travel 60 miles on a gallon of gas by 2025 will help ensure hybrids and electric vehicles will be the norm instead of the exception on U.S. roads.
But if past debates about fuel efficiency standards are any indication of what’s to come, we can be sure some in the auto industry and others will urge the Obama administration to maintain the status quo of vehicles guzzling more gas than they need, and issue the weakest possible standards. They’ll say that we can’t actually improve the efficiency of our cars and trucks that much, and when they finally admit that we can, they’ll say doing so costs too much – as if our current practice of sending $1 billion overseas every day to fuel our oil addiction is somehow cheap?
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Enough is enough. Our oil addiction poses clear threats to our economy, our environment and our national security. Ending our addiction and addressing these threats will require our leaders to reject these naysayers’ arguments, and put American ingenuity to work to move us beyond oil. President Obama can help get us there by setting standards requiring that new cars average 60 miles per gallon by 2025.
Simone Balog is a field associate Environment Colorado. http://www.environmentcolorado.org