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October 18, 2012

The Debate, Real Solutions to Gas Prices, and Biking Away From Oil

CargasTuesday's debate featured a critical question: can the President of the United States control the prices of a gallon of gasoline at the gas pump? The simple answer is no. But there is a lot we can do to make us and our transportation system less dependent on oil in ways that will save us billions at the pump and help as avoid it all together.

Gas prices are set by the world market (among other factors). Just the other day the Wall Street Journal ran this story: U.S. Oil Boom Falls Short of Pump. This story makes clear that the surge in U.S. oil production has nothing to do with prices at the pump, but everything to do with profits for refiners. 

The fact is that refiners are buying some domestic oils at a discount and turning around and selling gasoline based on the market price for a gallon of gasoline. These refiners to don't pass on their discount, they pocket bigger profits. The WSJ article features the surging profits of two refiners: HollyFrontier Corp and Tesoro.

Gas prices are messy, but solutions to dependence on oil are not.

But short of having a magic wand, the Obama administration has done more than any other administration to give Americans a solution to high gas prices: Doubling the fuel efficiency of new cars by 2025 and cutting their carbon pollution in half to boot. These standards are having an impact now: With better choices already on the market, these standards will ensure that the owner of a new 2025 car will save $8,000 over the life of that new car. In 2030 alone these standards will cut oil use by 3.1 million barrels every day and keep $140 billion in our pockets -- that's a real solution.

A new study shows that over the past five years, new vehicles have improved 18% and these more efficient cars have helped save 6.1 billion gallons of fuel -- equal to about two weeks' worth of gas consumption for all vehicles in the U.S.  The Obama administration standards will accelerate this trend -- great news for all of us and our environment.

Solutions go beyond better cars and the oil maps we shared last week show that we have some oil hotspots and some real opportunities ensure transportation solutions give Americans more choices – when prices go up, having choices keeps dollars in your pocket. This is where we get to biking.
PUBLIC now makes a Sierra Club bike!
Bicycling saves us $4.6 billion at the pump, as we documented in our "Pedaling to Prosperity" report.

According to Governing, 770,000 Americans are biking to work, but that's not the only way we can use bikes. More than half of our trips in metro areas are less than three miles. Walking or biking these trips could the amount of oil we use by an astonishing 35-38%!

Bike-shares are popping up in cities across the country, as we showed in our great map we shared back in August. Making biking easier and more accessible helps to drive interest in making streets safer for all.  Cities across the country, like Louisville, Kentucky, are helping out by closing down busy downtown streets and giving bikers and walkers the chance to enjoy them.

Projects like the Open Streets Project and Better Block are helping communities across the country find creative ways to demonstrate how biking and walking can and should be part of our transportation system and how they actually make our streets safer and more attractive -- and good for businesses.

(If all of this talk about biking is reminding you that you don't have a bike -- and you’re a Sierra Club member -- consider getting a super cool Sierra Club bike from PUBLIC!)

The Obama administration's 54.5 mpg standard by 2025 is the best response to high gas prices. Making sure we have transportation choices that help us avoid the pump all together is as well -- no matter the price.

-- Ann Mesnikoff, Director of the Green Transportation Campaign


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