by David Friedman, via Union of Concerned Scientists
During his first term, President Obama made history by setting the first ever global warming emissions standards for both cars and trucks and putting our nation on a course to double new vehicle fuel economy by 2025, fulfilling his 2008 campaign promise to cut oil use 2.5 million barrels per day.
Now it is time for him to cement his legacy on oil by going where none of his predecessors have gone before — President Obama must commit the nation to a realistic path to cut our projected oil use in half over the next twenty years.
A Campaign Promise Kept
When first running for office, candidate Obama promised to cut U.S. oil consumption by 2.5 million barrels of oil per day, take 50 million cars-worth of pollution off the road, and save Americans more than $50 billion on gasoline.
Soon after taking office, the President set in motion steps to deliver on this promise. Following a key Supreme Court decision backing the Clean Air Act and the scientific finding that carbon dioxide and other heat trapping gases endanger our health and welfare, he directed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Transportation (DOT) to develop a harmonized set of fuel economy rules and the nation’s first greenhouse gas standards for cars and light trucks.
Over the course of two rulemakings and in partnership with California, those two agencies put in place standards that will nearly double the fuel economy of new cars and light trucks and cut their global warming emissions in half by 2025. On top of that, those same agencies set the world’s first greenhouse gas and fuel economy standards for new commercial trucks, from heavy-duty pickups to garbage trucks to big-rigs, covering 2014 to 2018.
Based on our analysis and that of others, Politifact is now rating Obama’s oil saving goal as a promise kept. By our calculations, the combination of the three standards will deliver oil savings reaching 2.6 million barrels per day by 2025. In that year alone, the combined standards will save consumers about $120 billion, even after paying for the improved vehicle technology, and will cut global warming emissions by the equivalent of taking over 70 million typical cars and light trucks off the road for a year. These savings will continue to grow, reaching more than 4 million barrels per day by 2035, with even more money in consumers’ pockets and emissions saved.
Commit to Half the Oil, Because We Can ½ It!
After an election season filled with cynicism about politicians and the role of government, it is really refreshing to look back and see that candidates can fulfill their promises and that our government can work very well in the interest of Americans.
It is in that light that we need to challenge the President to go even farther and set his sights even higher. The President can and should keep up the oil, emissions, and money savings momentum in his second term by committing the nation to cut our projected oil use in half over the next 20 years. My analysis for the UCS Half the Oil plan (halftheoil.org) shows that we could achieve that goal through a combination of efficiency and innovative alternatives to burning oil to get around.
If the President expands on the kind of steps his administration has already taken, he could meet his 2.5 million barrels per day oil savings goal by about 2020, five years earlier. And if we keep up the pace, including medium and heavy-duty truck standards that double fuel economy; setting similar standards for planes, trains, and ships; and ramping up investments in electric cars, better biofuels, and more efficient ways to move people and goods and fuel our homes and industry, we could cut the use of oil and other petroleum products in the U.S. down to 10-11 million barrels per day in about 20 years.
Keeping a Promise to Our Children
On election night last November, President Obama made another promise. He committed to take bold action to reclaim our nation’s legacy as the “global leader in technology and discovery and innovation” and to ensure our children grow up unafraid of the “destructive power of a warming planet.”
Fulfilling this climate promise means dramatically cutting the use of oil and other petroleum products, the largest source of global warming emissions in the U.S. Reclaiming our nation’s technology and innovation legacy means becoming a global leader in the transportation technology that will dramatically cut oil use. And giving American’s real relief from the hundreds of billions of dollars we spend each year on oil and the recessions caused by oil price spikes means dramatically cutting oil use.
Or, to put it more simply, using less is the real oil solution.
Of course, let’s not kid ourselves. If the President works to fulfill this promise, he’s going to get a lot of push back. Oil companies and their allies are making a killing selling us oil in its many forms and they are going to fight hard to block the progress that would mean more money in our pockets and less in theirs.
See the Half the Oil Plan in Action
Using less oil is practical, achievable, and benefits us all. Yet one powerful group is intent on blocking progress. Who’s standing in the way? See for yourself.