Environmental Issues: Transportation

electric car

A typical car engine is depressingly inefficient – for every 10 gallons of gas you put in, only about 2 of them actually move the vehicle forward. More than half the oil we use as a nation goes into our gas tanks, and vehicles are responsible for churning out about one-third of all America’s global warming pollution. Making our cars and trucks cleaner and more fuel-efficient is a critical part of building a new, clean energy economy.

Announced in 2011, stronger fuel economy standards require new cars to reach an average of 54.5 mpg by 2025, and the federal government introduced the nation’s first ever carbon pollution standards in 2010. Establishing national standards gives automakers the confidence they need to invest in building cleaner cars. They’re doing it by using better engine technology and smarter designs in traditional cars, and by ramping up production of hybrids and electric vehicles. Even with today’s energy grid, plug-ins create less global warming pollution than conventional cars. And as our grid becomes greener, electric cars will become greener, too.

The strengthened fuel efficiency average of 54.5 mpg by 2025 will save Americans $80 billion a year at the pump.

President Obama has set an ambitious, but achievable goal of putting 1 million plug-in vehicles on the road by 2015. Nearly every major automaker and a number of startups will launch at least one plug-in electric vehicle over the next five years. More than 20 models will be available by 2012, and at least 20 more are already in the works. But this is just a start. To get a million plug-in cars on the road, we need continued support for strong fuel efficiency and carbon pollution standards, incentives for car-buyers and manufacturers, and investments into battery research and development.

With the right set of policies in place to encourage the development and spread of fuel-efficient vehicles, we can help consumers save billions on gas costs and cut our oil imports by 25 percent. Building better vehicles also has the potential to create more than 150,000 American jobs by 2020, and increase Detroit automaker profits by $5 billion per year.

Modernizing our vehicle fleet isn’t going to happen overnight. But focusing on fuel-efficiency and plug-in vehicles will help spur the innovation we need to get there.

last revised 4/27/2011

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