ACEEE Shows Oil Saving Potential Beyond Cars

January 5, 2006

Media Contact(s):

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

Washington, D.C. — Policymakers across the political spectrum agree that the U.S. should reduce its reliance on imported oil, but cannot agree on which policies to favor. Much of the debate has centered on opportunities to improve the efficiency of cars and light trucks. A new report released today by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) broadens this discussion by showing how efficiency measures beyond those directed at passenger vehicles could help curb America's appetite for oil. The ACEEE report, Reducing Oil Use Through Energy Efficiency: Opportunities Beyond Cars and Light Trucks, shows how freight trucks, the industrial sector, and buildings could save substantial amounts of oil.

"Passenger vehicles are the largest consumer of petroleum products and improving their efficiency will be essential to a serious oil savings effort," said Therese Langer, ACEEE Transportation Program Director. "At the same time, the other half of U.S. oil consumption offers plenty of efficiency opportunities—over two million barrels per day by 2020."

ACEEE Executive Director Steven Nadel added, "These other oil uses, often neglected in contentious debates over managing our growing oil problem, could give us much needed flexibility in meeting oil use reduction targets over the next ten to twenty years."

The largest opportunity analyzed in the report, heavy-duty trucks, could yield savings of up to two-thirds of a million barrels per day by 2020 through application of existing conventional technologies available at a price per gallon saved of under $1.20.

The second largest opportunity comes from the industrial sector. Neal Elliott, ACEEE Industry and Agriculture Program Director, stated, "Much of the oil used in the industrial sector is for feedstocks, not fuel. The biggest efficiency opportunity is replacing virgin asphalt with rubberized asphalt paving made from ground-up tires. This paving material has many performance benefits while providing oil savings of over one-third of a million barrels daily by 2020. In addition, using tires in this way addresses the national waste tire disposal problem." The report also identifies additional feedstock oil savings of 0.46 million barrels per day through recycling plastics.

Combined heat and power (CHP) systems and efficient industrial boilers also offer modest industrial fuel oil reduction potential. Much less oil is used in the buildings sector, but the ACEEE report shows the availability of 190,000 barrels of oil per day savings by 2020 through efficiency improvements in residential and commercial buildings.

Policies ACEEE recommends to achieve the available oil savings include:

  • Miles-per-gallon standards for tractor-trailers and for trucks in the 8,500 to 10,000-pound weight range
  • A national mandate for use of rubberized asphalt paving in federally funded highway construction
  • Updated equipment efficiency standards and building codes
  • Federal funding for truck idling reduction technologies
  • Extension of tax credits for heavy-duty hybrids
  • Automatic re-permitting of replacement boilers meeting certain conditions

Legislation setting oil savings targets for 2015 and 2025 was introduced in Congress at the end of 2005 and will be debated in the coming months. The policies analyzed by ACEEE could contribute one-third of the savings needed to meet the 2015 targets in these bills.

Concluded Langer: "While the biggest opportunity for saving oil remains in light-duty vehicles, this report shows that substantial opportunities exist for petroleum savings in other sectors. This broader range of opportunities and policy options needs to be part of the discussion."

Reducing Oil Use Through Energy Efficiency: Opportunities Beyond Cars and Light Trucks is available for free download at or a hard copy can be purchased for $20 plus $5 postage and handling from ACEEE Publications, 529 14th St, N.W., Suite 600, Washington, D.C. 20045, phone: 202-507-4000, fax: 202-429-2248, e-mail: