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March 30, 2011 

President Obama Sets Vital National Oil Savings Goal

Setting Strong Fuel Efficiency and Global Warming Standards Key to Success; Could be Hindered by Efforts to Limit EPA Authority

President Obama delivered a speech today on the nation’s energy security that offered a wide array of strategies to cut a third of U.S. oil imports by 2025, including plans to strengthen fuel efficiency and global warming pollution standards for new cars and trucks. 

“Making our cars cleaner and more fuel efficient is the most important step we can take to cut America’s oil dependence,” said David Friedman, deputy director of the Clean Vehicles Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). “You don’t have to look further than $4 a gallon gas or turmoil in the oil markets to see why we need strong vehicle standards.”

The Obama administration is in the process of developing new fuel efficiency and global warming pollution standards for new cars and trucks that could reach as high as 60 miles per gallon (mpg) and 143 grams-per-mile carbon dioxide equivalent respectively for new cars and light trucks sold in model year 2025. According to a UCS analysis, the strongest standards under consideration would save a vehicle owner $7,500 over the lifetime of the vehicle at a gasoline price of $3.50 per gallon, the equivalent of saving a dollar per gallon compared with today’s vehicles that average 26 mpg after covering the cost of added clean vehicle technology.

To reach the president’s goal of reducing oil imports by a third by 2025, U.S. petroleum imports would need to drop by at least 3.7 million barrels per day (mbd) by 2025 compared with 2008 imports of 11 mbd.

According to UCS engineers, the following steps would meet and could exceed the president’s 2025 savings goal, delivering total savings of more than 5 mbd:

  • Instituting the president’s fuel economy and global warming pollution standards for 2016, which could produce a 1.7 mbd reduction in oil imports.
  • Setting the next round of automobile standards to about 60 mpg and 143 grams per mile by 2025, which could reduce petroleum consumption by 1.6 mbd.
  • Finalizing planned standards for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, which could reduce petroleum consumption by 0.3 mbd.
  • Establishing a cellulosic biofuel industry, which could reduce petroleum consumption by 0.8 mbd.
  • Providing Americans alternatives to driving alone, which could reduce petroleum consumption by 0.4 mbd.
  • Establishing fuel efficiency standards for planes, trains and ships, which could reduce petroleum consumption by 0.3 mbd.  

Further progress in these areas could deliver even greater savings, allowing the United States to cut not just imports, but the nation’s total projected oil use in half by 2030, according to UCS engineers.

At the same time President Obama was giving his speech today, the Senate was considering amendments to a small business bill that would undermine federal and state vehicle standards that would cut oil dependence, save consumers billions of dollars, and reduce global warming pollution.

“While the president is offering real solutions to curb our oil dependence, some members of Congress are peddling snake oil,” said Brendan Bell, Washington representative for UCS’s Clean Vehicles program. “The president’s plan would save us money at the pump and strengthen national security. But some senators want to roll back the Clean Air Act, which would pollute our skies and enrich the oil industry.”

The amendments in play would limit the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to regulate global warming emissions. The most restrictive amendment, proposed by Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), would permanently block the EPA from limiting global warming emissions under the Clean Air Act.

“These attacks on the EPA fly in the face of science and are an assault on the health of every American,” said Lexi Shultz, legislative director for the Climate and Energy Program at UCS. “The White House should be sending the clearest possible signal that these attacks are unacceptable.”


The Union of Concerned Scientists puts rigorous, independent science to work to solve our planet's most pressing problems. Joining with citizens across the country, we combine technical analysis and effective advocacy to create innovative, practical solutions for a healthy, safe, and sustainable future.

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