Go Electric to Avoid the Holiday Gas Price Roller Coaster

With motorists hitting the road for the Labor Day weekend facing gas prices expected to set a four-year high, you can see what’s driving more and more people to go electric.

They want a cheaper and stable alternative to the highly volatile oil market and resulting wildly fluctuating gas prices. The price of electricity is boring, delivering predictable savings and the added convenience of refueling at home.

Charging on residential electricity costs, on average, about half as much as filling up on gasoline. It’s roughly the equivalent of fueling up on a dollar-a-gallon gasoline.

While gas prices can swing wildly (due to events over which we have no control), electricity prices are inherently more stable because electricity is produced from a diverse mix of energy sources.

Electricity prices also are more stable because the power industry is heavily regulated. No one regulates the world oil market.

Hence, the price of electricity, adjusted for inflation, has stayed close to the dollar-a-gallon equivalent mark for over 20 years, as depicted in the chart below, while gas prices have gone up and down violently.

Cost savings and price stability are reasons enough to abandon the gas pump. But electric vehicles are also the cleanest vehicles on the road, emitting half as much climate pollution as comparable gas-powered vehicles (accounting for the production and use of both fuels), and, unlike gasoline, electricity is only getting cleaner and cleaner as renewable resources like wind and solar continue to expand.

EVs also are gaining appeal as states, utilities, and independent companies make electric vehicle charging stations more convenient, including placing them at workplaces, schools and even beaches. That gives drivers new options for “fueling” up and driving longer on a cleaner fuel.

In California, utilities have been authorized to invest about $1 billion to accelerate transportation electrification, and have proposed another $1 billion in additional investments in charging infrastructure, market education and outreach, and other programs.

States across the nation have set goals for EV adoption and analysis reveals states like Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina stand to reap billions of dollars in reduced utility bills, fuel and operating cost savings, and environmental benefits from widespread EV adoption.

Carmakers also are now offering a wide range of affordable and longer-range EVs.

Last year was a record year for global sales of electric vehicles, with sales up 54 percent from the year before, according to the International Energy Agency. China led the world in sales, followed by the United States with about 280,000 cars sold in 2017, up from 160,000 in 2016. Strong growth is projected for the years ahead.

Drilling in the US won’t help and rolling back fuel economy standards will harm consumers

Given the proven economic, health and environmental benefits of electric vehicles, it makes no sense for President Trump to seek to increase domestic oil production, including proposing to open environmental treasures like Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and wide swaths of U.S. coastal waters to risky drilling.

Drilling in America’s wild places will not insulate Americans from oil price shocks because oil is a global commodity, the price of which is set by a global market.

As if Trump’s backward-looking efforts to drill everywhere wasn’t enough, his administration also has recklessly moved to gut popular clean car and fuel economy standards in spite of their potential to save consumers money at the pump and reduce harmful pollution.

Consumers are saving an average of over $200 a year from the standards, compared to 2011, the year before the current standards were put in place, according to the Consumer Federation of America. But the administration is attempting to kill standards that would save a consumer buying a new vehicle in 2025 an additional $295 a year in gas costs.

The savings in fuel costs would amount to $6,000 over the life of a vehicle that meets 2025 standards compared to the average vehicle on the road today. Those savings are under threat, but NRDC is fighting to keep them in place to protect consumers and the environment.

We can do something about our fuel bills other than complain when gas prices spike. We can support efforts to promote more fuel-efficient vehicles, including electric cars.

So if you’re growing weary of headlines like "Expect a Spike in Gas Prices on Labor Day Weekend," "Gas Prices Expect to Stay Volatile" and "Gas Prices on Roller Coaster Ride," it’s time to get off the roller coaster and drive electric instead.

About the Authors

Max Baumhefner

Senior Attorney, Climate & Clean Energy Program

Join Us

When you sign up you'll become a member of NRDC's Activist Network. We will keep you informed with the latest alerts and progress reports.