Study Finds Better Fuel Economy Will Lower Oil Imports More Than New Oil Drilling

May 1, 2001

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Wendy Koch, 202-507-4753, Senior Director, Marketing & Communications

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Increasing the fuel efficiency of new cars and light trucks by just 5 percent a year would cut U.S. oil use by 1.5 million barrels per day within a decade, according to a new study issued today by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE). Over 40 years, such a program of increased vehicle efficiency would save 10–20 times more oil than the projected supply from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) and more than 3 times total U.S. proven oil reserves today.

"Simply improving vehicle fuel economy 5 percent a year will do more to enhance U.S. energy security than all the oil drilling the Bush Administration is going to call for in its forthcoming plan," said study author Howard Geller. Geller is former Executive Director of ACEEE. "Unfortunately, judging by Vice President Cheney's speech yesterday, the Administration is not properly valuing the contribution that energy efficiency can make. Policy makers should realize that the U.S. is running out of economically recoverable oil and that domestic production is on a downward trajectory with or without permitting oil exploration and production from ANWR."

Today's study points out that the average fuel efficiency of new cars and light trucks is declining, not rising. It recommends a combination of policies–tougher fuel economy regulations, financial incentives, continued R&D, and more consumer education–to ensure that cars and light trucks sold during the next few decades are "gas sippers" rather than "gas guzzlers."

The study notes that U.S. oil imports more than doubled during the past 15 years and oil imports now exceed domestic oil production. But the U.S. possesses just 2 percent of world oil reserves, and this percentage is dropping.

"As more and more gas guzzling cars, SUVs, and pickups hit the road, our oil imports from the Persian Gulf are reaching record levels," Geller said. "A sensible energy policy would attack the main cause of our growing import dependence–namely by declaring war on these gas guzzlers."

Today's study finds that commercially available technologies could improve the fuel efficiency of new vehicles by up to 65% within a decade. "Adopting these technologies would cut oil imports far more than trying to increase oil supplies from environmentally sensitive areas such as ANWR," Geller stated. "Increasing fuel economy also would lower gasoline costs and lower pollutant emissions. Increasing fuel economy, not oil drilling in ANWR and other sensitive areas, should be the cornerstone of our nation's energy strategy."

For copies of Strategies for Reducing Oil Imports: Expanding Oil Production vs. Increasing Vehicle Efficiency, contact the ACEEE publications office, phone: (202) 429-0063; email: The Executive Summary of the report is available at /pubsmeetings/e011.pdf