Reduce Oil Dependence Costs
The U.S. is less dependent on foreign oil than it was a few years ago. However, most of the world's oil reserves are still concentrated in the Middle East, and about 71% are controlled by Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) members. This gives OPEC considerable influence over the oil market.
Oil price shocks and price manipulation by OPEC have cost our economy dearly in the past—about $2 trillion from 2004 to 2008.
It's unclear whether we will ever eliminate our need to import oil, but we can reduce cartel market control and the economic impact of price shocks by reducing our petroleum use.
We can reduce petroleum use by
- Developing advanced vehicle technologies that use energy more efficiently
- Adopting alternative fuels that can replace petroleum cleanly and cost-effectively
In the 1970s, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) established fuel economy standards to encourage automakers to produce more fuel-efficient vehicles. Fuel economy improvements due to these and subsequent standards have reduced fuel consumption by well over 1.5 trillion gallons, saved consumers trillions of dollars, and avoided 14 billion tons of GHG emissions.
NHTSA recently proposed robust new fuel economy standards. If adopted, these standards are projected to increase fuel efficiency 8% annually for model years 2024–2026, saving consumers $140 billion in fuel by 2030 and $470 billion by midcentury.
In addition to improving vehicle efficiency, automakers are also designing vehicles that can be powered fully or in-part by non-petroleum-based fuels. These include all-electric vehicles, plug-in hybrids, fuel cell vehicles, and flex-fuel vehicles, as well as vehicles that can run on petroleum alternatives such as biodiesel.
You Can Help
You can help reduce our oil dependence by selecting a vehicle that uses less petroleum. Each vehicle in our Find and Compare Cars section has an Energy Impact Score that shows the amount of petroleum it uses each year.
You can also decrease your petroleum use by getting the best fuel economy possible out of your current car by driving sensibly, keeping your car in shape, and planning and combining trips.
U.S. Crude Oil and Petroleum Product Imports: EIA. 2022. Monthly Energy Review July 2022, Table 3.3b.
Petroleum cost to U.S. economy in 2014: Greene, D.L., C. Liu, and P.N. Leiby. 2014. The Oil Security Metrics Model: 2014 Update. ORNL/TM-2014/628. Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, Tennessee, September.
Proven oil reserve estimates: ORNL. 2021. Transportation Energy Data Book. Ed. 39. Table 1.5.
Information on impact of CAFE standards:
- Greene, D.L., J.M. Greenwald and R.E. Ciez. 2020. U.S. fuel economy and greenhouse gas standards: What have they achieved and what have we learned? Energy Policy, Vol. 146, November.
- NHTSA. 2021. USDOT Proposes Improved Fuel Economy Standards for MY 2024–2026 Passenger Cars and Light Trucks. Press Release, August 5.
- NHTSA. 2021. Corporate Average Fuel Economy: Light Duty Vehicles
- NHTSA. 2021. Notice of Proposed Rulemaking: Corporate Average Fuel Economy Standards for Model Years 2024–2026 Passenger Cars and Light Trucks. Federal Register 86, no. 169, (September 3, 2021): 49602.