National Research Council Study Charts Course to a Half the Oil Future

Statement by Michelle Robinson, Director, Clean Vehicles Program

Published Mar 18, 2013


WASHINGTON (March 18, 2013) – An important National Research Council study released today concludes that the right policies and a wide variety of automotive technologies can significantly reduce our nation’s oil use and heat-trapping emissions in the coming decades.

Researchers found that the United States could reduce oil use from its light-duty cars and trucks by 50 percent from 2005 levels by 2030 and achieve an 80 percent reduction by 2050. The study found this could be achieved through a combination of several different approaches, including continued improvements in fuel efficiency and expanded use of electric vehicles and biofuels. It further found that these reductions would not require any major technological breakthroughs.

The National Research Council analysis parallels many aspects of the Union of Concerned Scientists’ (UCS) Half the Oil Plan, which lays out a practical and feasible path for halving U.S. oil use within 20 years. Much like the study released today, the UCS plan calls for a combination of several steps, including deploying technologies and strengthening policies that make passenger vehicles and commercial trucks more efficient, hybrid and electric vehicles more practical, and fuels less carbon intensive, while providing sufficient investment for transportation technology and infrastructure.

Below is a statement from Michelle Robinson, director of UCS’s Clean Vehicles program:

“The National Research Council study makes it clear that effective elimination of oil use in cars and light trucks and getting an 80 percent reduction in heat-trapping emissions by 2050 are both within reach without requiring any unexpected technology breakthroughs. In other words, we know how to get there, we just need the right map and the right investments to do it.

“But the study also shows there is no single policy or technology that will answer the challenges our continued oil use presents our economy, our health, and our planet. Too often, our government’s approach is to search for a silver bullet when what we really need is silver buckshot; a suite of policy and technology options that will cut oil use while protecting consumers and strengthening our economy. 

“We can reach these goals if industry, government, and consumers each do their part, making the needed investments and putting in place a portfolio of effective policies that incentivize clean vehicle technologies and smart design.

“As both the National Research Council study and UCS’s Half the Oil plan conclude, by tapping deeper into existing efficiency technologies and promoting innovative solutions, we can address the high costs of our nation’s oil use and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This will take investment, but the short- and long-term savings will far outweigh the costs. And at the end of the day, what we cannot afford is to ignore the many costs of our continued oil use and changing climate.”