Defeating the Gas Price Pain at the Pump: President Calls for More Clean Vehicle Investments

Unless you dug deep into President Obama’s FY2013 budget proposal you may have missed his plan to increase investments in cars and trucks that don’t need oil for fuel. The increased investments in alternative vehicles is part of a broad strategy to relieve Americans of their pain at the pump from high and volatile gasoline prices by making it easier to use less gas.

That’s just what the driver ordered. Recent proposals to expand supplies through drilling and pipelines won’t lower gas prices. Today, the U.S. is drilling more than it has in eight years yet gasoline and oil prices—set on a world market—are out of our control. What we need is a sustained focus on clean, efficient vehicles and fuels and alternatives to driving to give consumers more choices and lower their transportation fuel bills.  In some cases, real progress has already been made.

In place are historic standards to raise fuel efficiency of automobiles and heavy trucks. By 2016, new autos will average over 34 miles per gallon (mpg). Standards proposed for model years 2017 to 2025 will reach the equivalent of 54.5 mpg by 2025. New automobiles in 2025 will consume have as much fuel as vehicles on the road today and have half the emissions of carbon pollution. Consumers will save an average of $4,400 over the life of their vehicle even when considering the cost of more fuel efficiency technologies.

If you visit your local auto dealer showrooms you’ll see the fuel efficiency progress already underway. In the last two years, the number of models averaging over 30 mpg has roughly doubled. Fuel-efficient cars like the Chevy Cruze and Ford Focus are hot sellers. Buyers are opting for car-based crossovers to replace inefficient SUVs build on truck frames. A buyer trading a 2004 Ford Explorer for the 2013 “unibody” version will save over $1200 on their annual fuel bill year due to fuel economy improvements.  

Heavy-duty truck efficiency is also set to improve due to the first-ever carbon pollution and fuel efficiency standards finalized last August. Today, President Obama will visit a Daimler Truck North America manufacturing plant in Mt. Holly, North Carolina to see their developments in clean, fuel-efficiency technologies that will save truckers money.

Building new technologies to boost efficiency and clean the air results in jobs here in the U.S. In a recent report, produced jointly by NRDC, United Auto Workers and the National Wildlife Federation, we found that over 150,000 workers across 43 states are supplying the parts to make cars and trucks go further on a gallon of gas. When people save money on fuel, they inject it into the U.S. economy and that grows jobs as well.

President Obama’s budget proposal to expand incentives for advanced technology vehicles, such as plug-in electric cars and natural gas trucks, will help expand clean transportation technology jobs. Today, over 20,000 auto and truck manufacturing workers are producing components for electric-drive and alternative fuel vehicle systems and their infrastructure. Continued investment in these areas will not only grow these jobs, but will help establish the U.S. as the leader in advanced, non-petroleum vehicle technologies and provide better choices for consumers.

Congress certainly has a role to play to realize continued progress with reducing our dependence on oil. Bills supporting the President’s budget for clean vehicle initiatives are needed. Congress needs to also avoid letting our transportation infrastructure go unfunded and pass a forward-looking transportation bill that focuses on building more transit and walkable, bikeable communities that promote getting around without cars.

We can defeat the gas price pain at the pump with solutions that cut oil and gasoline demand and give consumers lower fuel bills. Household budgets are hurting and the time to invest in clean transportation solutions is now.