A National Call for Oil Savings: Responding to a Recent NYT Op-Ed

February 28, 2014 | 10:15 am
Josh Goldman
Former Contributor

Earlier this week a public call to reduce our oil use got some good national attention in this New York Times op-ed penned by Admiral Dennis C. Blair, a former director of National Intelligence and former commander in chief of the U.S. Pacific Command, and General Michael W. Hagee, the 33rd commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps.

These two gentlemen make the case that reducing our oil use is critical to safeguarding our country (and our wallets) against oil supply and price shocks. They make the astute point that no matter where our oil comes from, we are still vulnerable to the whims of the global oil market because our transportation system remains almost completely dependent on oil as an energy source.

Tapping into the so-called “new American oil boom” will not solve this problem. No matter how much oil we produce, “merely being a large producer would not confer immunity from global oil market volatility,” Blair and Hagee explain. Instead, the authors argue, we need to change the way we fuel transportation and call for reducing the role of oil in transportation to 50 percent within the next 25 years.

UCS shares the goal of reducing oil use and has put forth a realistic plan to reach this common goal. Our multifaceted Half the Oil plan focuses on improving the efficiency of our cars and trucks and investing in innovative solutions like electric vehicles, non-food based biofuels, and building communities with efficient transportation in mind. The main difference between the UCS plan and the one laid out in the op-ed is that our plan does not include a focus on natural gas. UCS analysis has concluded that natural gas is not a long term solution to climate change, one of the many challenges — along with oil price spikes — associated with our oil use.

The good news is that we’re already making progress toward a Half the Oil future. The federal fuel economy and greenhouse gas standards for light duty vehicles have helped push the fuel economy of the average new car sold in January to 24.9 miles per gallon (mpg) — a 21 percent increase since October 2007; and greenhouse gas emissions for new U.S. vehicles are at an all-time low. These standards will nearly double the average fuel efficiency of new passenger vehicles by 2025 and are the single biggest step our nation has ever taken to cut our oil use.

More recently, policymakers have turned their attention to medium and heavy duty vehicles — a vehicle class that ranges from delivery trucks and school buses to long-haul big rigs. These vehicles collectively make up only 7 percent of traffic on American roads, but account for over 25 percent of the fuel used to travel them. That’s why we were excited to see President Obama announce the next round of fuel efficiency and global warming pollution standards for medium and heavy duty trucks. The first phase of these standards, covering model years 2014 – 2018, will reduce annual oil consumption by 390,000 barrels each day in 2030 ; roughly the same amount of oil we currently import each year from Iraq.

As the op-ed authors acknowledge, efficiency is a big part of the solution — but it’s not enough. Calls to cut oil use through a suite of solutions are needed from our veterans, policymakers, community leaders, regular guys and gals, and most importantly, you. So join the growing chorus of Americans who realize the importance of setting and meeting an oil savings goal by signing up for our mailing list and following this blog (shameless plug, check). We’ll keep you informed of the latest developments in the fight against oil use, and will let you know how you can engage with local, regional, and federal policymakers to put policies in place that will help us reach a Half the Oil future.