Environment report reveals fuel costs could cost struggling families millions

Allison Kroll

Texans could save about $16 million in gas costs traveling this Thanksgiving holiday with more fuel-efficient cars, according to a Environment Texas report released Tuesday.

Four environment experts gathered at an old gas station at the 1500 block of San Jacinto Boulevard to discuss the newly released report, “Gobbling Less Gas for Thanksgiving: How Clean Cars Can Save Americans Money and Cut Oil Use.”

“We’re here today because efficiency is the best of all worlds,” said Andy Wilson, Public Citizen policy analyst for global warming and campaign finance reform. “Texas families need to be protected from high fuel costs at a time when everyone is struggling to pay their bills. We have the technology to meet these goals — we know we can do this.”

According to the report, the inefficiency of cars on the current 26.4 miles per gallon fuel economy standard is why Texas tops the list of states that spend the most on gasoline — second only to California. The report estimated that Texans would use 5,925,000 fewer gallons of oil and save roughly $16 million during Thanksgiving weekend if the fuel economy standard were increased to 60 mpg.

The report used regional Thanksgiving travel projections by the American Automobile Association to determine how many Texans would be traveling more than 50 miles by car.

With about 1.4 million Texas families on the road this Thanksgiving, they are forced to use more fuel than necessary and are expected to spend about $29 million on gas for their holiday travel, said Joyce Yao, clean air energy associate for Environment Texas.

“This Thanksgiving, Texans should be clearing out their plates, not their wallets,” Yao said. “We should give thanks to the technology that exists today to make our cars cleaner and more fuel efficient.”

The next step is for the Obama administration to press forward with clean air standards, Yao said.

“The average citizen can contact the White House and let them know that they support a 60 mpg fuel economy standard and reducing our dependence on foreign oil,” she said.

Central Texas Clean Cities coordinator Stacy Neff said switching to a 60 mpg fuel economy standard would result in a healthier economy, improved national security and cleaner air.

“The new standard would reduce petroleum use, make our country less dependent on foreign oil, save consumers money and reduce emissions,” Neef said.

State Rep. Mark Strama, who represents parts of Austin, said he got involved in the issue after gasoline hit $4 a gallon and after he saw the pollution in China on a recent trip.

“It’s a genuine health crisis,” Strama said. “Our industry needs to create solutions that will help consumers solve their problems. In the next 30 years, whoever figures out a solution to these problems is going to make a lot of money.”