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Oil Solutions At Work: Experts and Entrepreneurs Working To Reduce U.S. Oil Use

We can cut projected U.S. oil use in half by 2035. These experts and entrepreneurs are making that vision real—read their stories below!

Vehicle Efficiency

Electric Vehicles


Smart Growth

Vehicle EfficiencyEfficient vehicles use less oil and emit less pollution. Learn more.

Linda Gaines: Less idling, less oil

Linda Gaines, a Systems Analyst in the Center for Transportation Research at Argonne National Lab, studies vehicle idling. We’re all familiar with idling—sitting at traffic lights, waiting in a running car to pick someone up, watching trucks idle while their drivers make deliveries.

Cumulatively, the impact of vehicle idling is huge. In the U.S. alone, idling uses more than 6 billion gallons of fuel each year.

In one study, Linda’s research team addressed a common dilemma faced by fast-food customers—do you use less fuel to drive-thru, or to park, go inside the restaurant, and then restart the car? The answer: idling for longer than 10 seconds consumes more fuel and produces more global warming pollution than stopping and restarting, so you’re better off going inside the restaurant.

Linda’s team turns their findings into practical tools to help drivers reduce their idling, and even created an online IdleBox toolkit in partnership with the Department of Energy’s Clean Cities Program.

Given the amount of oil wasted by idling vehicles each year, Linda’s work is making important progress towards improving vehicle fuel efficiency—a key piece of the UCS Half the Oil plan.

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Roger Southall: Fuel savings in big trucks

Roger Southall is the CEO of AireDock, an innovative, Florida-based company that’s helping reduce oil use in big-rig trucks.

Currently, most truck drivers keep their engines idling when they pull into truck stops to sleep. This provides heating, cooling, and electricity—and consumes as much as 1,400 gallons of diesel each year.

To reduce the fuel use, emissions, and engine wear and tear associated with extended idling, Roger’s company offers drivers a new option when they arrive at rest stops—they can turn off their engines and hook up to an AireDock station. Powered by electricity, these stations provide drivers with internet, temperature-controlled fresh air for their cabin, and power for on-board appliances, all controlled through a simple panel that fits on the truck window.

Because Airedock stations eliminate extended idling, they also reduce oil use, emissions, and fueling costs for heavy-duty vehicle owners and operators. In Roger's eyes, the technology is a true win-win, both from an environmental and economic perspective.

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Electric VehiclesElectric vehicles use less oil and emit less pollution than conventional vehicles. Learn more.

Mario Landau Holdsworth: EV charging for apartments

Mario Landau Holdsworth is the founder and CEO of EverCharge, a company that enables electric vehicle owners to charge their vehicles in multiunit dwellings like condominiums and apartment buildings.

For the many Americans who live in multiunit dwellings, lack of access to vehicle charging is a major barrier to owning an EV. It’s fairly simple to plug in a vehicle if you own your home and have an outlet—but if you live in an apartment building or condo complex, persuading a building manager to install chargers or upgrade electrical systems is a daunting task.

That’s where EverCharge steps in. Mario and his colleagues work with building management to determine how many EVs can be safely plugged in, and then install their clever charging stations. Drivers can plug a vehicle into an EverCharge station at any time: the system uses algorithms to efficiently cycle which vehicles are charging at any given moment.

By making it easier to charge electric vehicles in multiunit dwellings, EverCharge is helping overcome a key hurdle to owning EVs–an important solution to our oil use, and part of the UCS plan to reduce projected oil use.

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Nigel Zeid: Championing EVs

Nigel Zeid is the LEAF specialist at a Nissan dealership in Boulder, Colorado. While all Nissan showrooms have salespeople who specialize in the all-electric LEAF, Nigel’s dealership is the top LEAF seller in its region of 13 states.

As a salesman, Nigel is well-versed in the technical capabilities of the LEAF, its environmental benefits, and, of course, why it’s fun to drive, low-maintenance, and cheaper to fuel than a gasoline car.

After learning the benefits of driving on electricity, Nigel began sharing his EV expertise outside the showroom. Today you can find Nigel teaching lessons in schools on how EVs work, and organizing promotional events at local companies.

EVs are a critical component in reducing U.S. oil use—and salespeople like Nigel play a key role in EV education and advocacy.

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Steven Lough: Early EV adoption

Steven Lough has history with cars. His family bought a dealership in 1947, and Steven first brought an electric vehicle– a converted Renault 5–into his showroom in 1980.

After selling his first shipment of EVs and driving one himself, Steven was hooked.

As President of the Seattle Electric Vehicle Association (SEVA) for 33 years, Steven saw his organization grow from a few backyard car tinkerers and EV enthusiasts to the second largest Electric Auto Association chapter in the United States.

Steven expects more members to join his and other chapters across the country. Why? It's simple, says Steven: EVs are just fun to drive.

Learn more about how electric vehicle sales are increasing across the country and why driving on electricity makes a difference as part of a Half the Oil future.

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BiofuelsCleaner, non-food based biofuels offer enormous potential for reducing U.S. oil use. Learn more.

Anne Blair: Restaurant waste to biofuel

Anne works as program director for the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, a non-profit organization that promotes responsible energy choices.

One of Anne’s roles is helping manage a state-of-the-art biodiesel fueling station at her office in Atlanta, GA. Run in partnership with Clean Energy Biofuels, the station uses 100% solar power to convert waste oil from local restaurants into biodiesel.

This type of biodiesel produces far less toxic and global warming emissions compared to conventional diesel fuel, and is sourced, produced, and sold locally.

Biodiesel made from waste streams like used restaurant oils is one part of UCS's plan to reduce projected U.S. oil use in half in 20 years. Better biofuels (like cellulosic ethanol and biodiesel made from non-food or waste sources) have the potential to cut our oil use by 1.7 million barrels per day by 2035.

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Rich Pyter: Better biofuels

As a Senior Agronomist for Aloterra Energy, a Texas and Ohio-based producer of sustainable consumer and energy products, Rich is responsible for ensuring the health of Aloterra’s 18,000 existing acres of Miscanthus.

Sometimes found in ornamental gardens, Miscanthus is a non-food energy crop used to make biofuels. On a lifecycle basis, biofuels made out of Miscanthus can achieve an incredible 80-90% reduction in greenhouse gases compared to gasoline.

Rich sees the technology that converts perennial crops like Miscanthus into low-carbon fuels as a science that could “change the world,” and is understandably excited at the prospects of utilizing non-food based biofuels as one solution to oil use.

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Viji Sitther: Fuel from saltwater bacteria

Viji Sitther, a plant molecular biologist at Morgan State University in Maryland, is working to change the way we fuel our cars and trucks. Scientists like Viji are developing the technology to produce biofuels from photosynthetic cyanobacteria, which use sunlight to produce energy.

Viji and her research partners are working on how to make a certain type of cyanobacteria more salt tolerant, so that it can grow in water that has high salt content.

Why does that matter? Because Earth’s freshwater is limited, using saltwater to grow cyanobacteria will produce biofuels that are an even more sustainable energy choice.

Viji and her students plan to continue investigating how applied science can develop low carbon, efficient, and effective solutions to our oil use. To learn more about how non-food based biofuels are part of the UCS plan to cut projected U.S. oil use in half in 20 years, click here.

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Smart GrowthSmart growth policies and practices encourage livable communities and reduce oil use. Learn more.

Julie Bond: Smarter commutes

As project manager at the Center for Urban Transportation Research (CUTR), Julie Bond is changing the way Americans get to and from work—and increasing the safety and efficiency of our transportation habits.

One of Julie’s projects is coordinating the “Best Workplaces for Commuters” program, a public-private partnership at the University of South Florida. The program recognizes companies that provide employees with oil-saving transportation options (like carpooling, bicycling, or public transportation).

Reducing the number of commuter vehicles improves air quality and helps reduce traffic and oil use. Encouraging commuters to walk, bicycle, or share their vehicles is part of Julie’s everyday life—and a big help to Half the Oil, the UCS plan to cut projected U.S. oil use in half.

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Patrick Kennedy: Better designed communities

Patrick Kennedy is the owner of Panoramic Interests, a Berkeley-based firm that specializes in building innovative, mixed-use buildings, with an emphasis on sustainability and reduced oil use.

As an ultra-light backpacker, Patrick is constantly thinking about how to make things smaller, lighter, and easier, and has incorporated similar concepts into building design. The apartment complexes that Patrick builds include bike racks and easy access to public transit or shared car services instead of on-site parking, enabling residents to live comfortably without owning a car.

By leaving parking out of the equation, Patrick can also devote more space to communal meeting “hubs” designed to foster chance meetings between kindred spirits living in the same community.

Patrick sees similar “smart-growth” communities growing not just in the San Francisco region, but in cities across the country—a great sign for Half the Oil, the UCS plan to reduce U.S. oil use.

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Stephen Mattingly: Smarter traffic lights

Dr. Stephen Mattingly, an associate professor of civil engineering at University of Texas Arlington, has a deep background in transportation research, analysis, and modeling.

Stephen’s background includes work in Anaheim, California, where he helped examine “adaptive traffic signal control,” a technology that adjusts the timing of traffic lights to accommodate real-time traffic conditions. More green lights mean less stopping, less fuel use, lower emissions, and improved travel times.

Fortunately, Stephen’s work is set to expand, as his team just received a federal grant to create a Transportation Research Center focused on “livable communities,” or communities that embody smart-growth principles.

Innovations like these help communities become more efficient and are one example of a “smart-growth” solution to U.S. oil use.

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