Sustainable America Blog

Fuel Economy at a Record High

The University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute’s Eco-Driving Index has indicated that the average fuel economy of new vehicles bought in 2012 rose to an all time high of 23.8 mpg. This is up 1.3 mpg from 2011 and 2.9 mpg from 2008.

But with the economy recovering and gas prices falling slightly (for now), it remains to be seen whether this purchasing trend will continue.

General Motors was the first U.S. automaker to sell over 1 million vehicles domestically that get over 30 mpg based on the EPA’s highway test. Mark Ruess, president of GM North America, told NBC News, “Our investments in advanced powertrains are clearly paying off, and our smaller vehicles are resonating with customers.”

At another big U.S. automaker, Ford, sales of the fuel efficient Focus were up 40% in 2012, and their new hybrid vehicle, the C-Max, continues to sell at the highest rate of any hybrid in the industry.

In 2012, President Obama announced ambitious new 54.5 mpg CAFE Standards for fuel economy. The standards mandate that the fleet-wide average mpg by 2025 must be 54.5 mpg and provide regulatory framework to support those goals. The new CAFE Standards govern cars produced from 2017 to 2025 and will more or less double the efficiency of the U.S. auto fleet when compared to the level of fuel efficiency in 2008.

Despite these lofty goals, it’s important to note that some experts believe we should use a different standard for measuring fuel efficiency. The debate over ‘gallons per mile’ vs. the more popular ‘miles per gallon’ is that as the miles per gallon of a vehicle increases, there is a diminishing return in gallons per mile. So that improving efficiency from 10 to 20 mpg offers a much greater return than an improvement from 25 to 50 mpg.

Regardless of the way we measure if, there is clearly a need for greater fuel efficiency in the U.S. auto fleet. Increasing fuel efficiency is one of the ways that Sustainable America aims to reduce oil usage in America 50% by 2030.

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By the Numbers

Currently 50 million households suffer from food insecurity, meaning that family members cannot always meet their basic food needs.

10 million people a year could be fed through the recovery of just one-fifth of food waste.

Only 2% of food waste is composted or otherwise recycled—62% of paper is recycled.

Consumers throw out about 40% of the fresh and frozen fish they buy.

The U.S. produced 208 pounds of meat per person in 2009—60% more than Europe.

Low income commuters spend a much higher proportion of their wages on gas—8.6% versus 2.1% at $4 per gallon.

Food prices rose 35-40 percentage points between 2002–2008.

Americans consume 25% of the world’s produced oil, but our nation holds less than 3% of the world’s proven oil reserves.

The International Energy Agency says greenhouse gas emissions rose 3.2% last year, with a 9.3% increase in China offsetting declines in the US and EU.


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