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June 07, 2012

Cutting Oil Use in Half

Offshore drilling

Our friends at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) have outlined an excellent plan to reduce U.S. oil consumption in half by 2035 by taking clear, achievable steps. Given that half of the oil that we use in the U.S. powers our cars and trucks, this is the area where we can accomplish the greatest gains.

UCS estimates that if we make a concerted effort to ramp up electric vehicle (EV) production and sales, we could cut U.S. oil use by nearly 1.5 million barrels each day by 2035 and nearly eliminate oil from cars and light trucks by 2050. But the dream of an oil-free driving society will take work. We need to educate the public about the benefits of this new way of powering our vehicles, install EV charging stations in strategic public locations, and insist on government and auto industry investment in improving EV technology and accessibility.

UCS also describes the road toward cutting oil use among commercial vehicles, planes, trains, ships, and buildings. Additionally, the new fuel economy and emissions standards, set to be finalized this summer by the Obama administration, will nearly double our fuel efficiency from today to 2025. But this won't get us all the way there. We need to accelerate our support of next generation biofuels, help building owners switch to more efficient boilers, and demand that large vehicle fleet owners accelerate a transition to cleaner vehicles.

Of course, getting people out of their cars and onto trains, buses, bikes, and their own two walking feet will help us slash oil use too. But these cleaner transportation choices will not magically appear without our collective voices calling for programs that add bike lanes, increase transit funding, and increase mixed-use development that encourages people to live, work, and shop in easily accessible areas.

Slashing our oil use won't be easy, but it is do-able, and it is crucial. The oil we're using is increasingly risky and dirty as we drill deeper and further. We also know that oil that comes from the Canadian tarsands is toxic, threatens our drinking water, and leads to much higher global warming emissions than is generated by traditional oil production. To understand this better, check out this great, short video just released by my Sierra Club colleagues and narrated by TV star Joshua Jackson who explains why "the world's dirtiest oil isn't welcome here."

--Gina Coplon-Newfield, Sierra Club's Director of Green Fleets & Electric Vehicles Initiative

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