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Gas Prices Should Fuel Action

Record-high gas prices and the approaching summer driving season highlight need for action on energy independence and climate change.

Sixty-seven percent of Americans are already reporting financial hardship due to rising gas prices. And it’s no wonder. Gasoline prices rose to a record high of $3.10 per gallon last week86 percent more expensive than in March 2001—and prices are expected to continue rising throughout the summer due to refinery outages, weak supply, and strong demand.

In the lead up to Memorial Day and the start of the summer driving season, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing today on our short-term energy outlook.

Guy Caruso of the U.S. Energy Information Administration testified that growing demand is outstripping supply. “The U.S. petroleum industry’s infrastructure is unable to cope with increasing demand,” Caruso said. Better mileage standards and more access to biofuels would both slow demand growth.

Geoff Sunderstron, Director of Public Affairs at AAA, reported at the hearing that the typical American family owning two vehicles and using 1,200 gallons of gasoline per year will spend over $3,600 on gas this year if higher prices persist. For a family with two minimum wage earners, this means spending over six percent of yearly earnings on gasoline. And the squeeze on families will only tighten as gas prices continue to escalate throughout the summer.

Yesterday’s executive order by President Bush telling federal agencies to craft regulations cutting gasoline consumption and greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles would do little to develop clean, sustainable domestic energy solutions that could reduce demand—and costs—for gasoline. According to the Center for American Progress’ Director of Environmental Policy, Kit Batten, “the president’s executive order is 20 gallons short of a full tank.”

Batten outlines seven measures that the United States can start implementing now if it is serious about taking comprehensive action to achieve energy independence to cut global warming emissions by 80 percent by 2050.

  • Reinvigorate fuel economy standards to increase vehicle efficiency from the current fleet average of 24.6 miles per gallon to approximately 37 miles per gallon by 2025.
  • Increasing the supply and use of sustainable low-carbon transportation fuels that emit fewer greenhouse gases than traditional gasoline without harming our environment or spiking food and feed prices.
  • The creation of a national cap on global warming pollution, followed by mandated annual reductions.
  • Economy-wide implementation of this cap that protects early adopters and provides opportunities for energy efficiency, renewable energy, and agriculture and forestry industries to participate.
  • Potential for integration into international carbon credit trading markets in the future.
  • Establishing a renewable electricity standard that mandates 25 percent of all electricity come from clean energy alternatives such as wind and solar by 2025.
  • Mandate the use of carbon capture and storage technologies with all new coal-fired power plants.

Americans, stretched thin by rising gas prices, overwhelmingly support measures like these. A recent poll from the Center for American Progress shows that 64 percent of Americans think we should act immediately to use cleaner, alternative energy and 74 percent think that we should move toward switching from oil to alternative fuels. With the summer season starting and our dependence on oil clearer than ever, the time to act is now.

For more on CAP’s policy solutions on climate change and energy, see:

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