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6° of Fuel Efficiency

For a long time in this country, few cared about how much gasoline they used. Supplies seemed to be abundant. Vehicles got bigger and bigger, while miles per gallon got smaller. But now, increased global oil demand and higher gasoline prices have gotten our attention.

The problem has "hit home."

In our increasingly interconnected world, there are 6 good reasons why we should care about our gasoline use. The amount of gasoline we use – and waste – as individuals and collectively touches many of the priorities we do care about:

  1. Our personal well-being.
  2. The energy prices we pay at the pump.
  3. The air we breathe.
  4. Our economic well-being.
  5. Our dependence on foreign oil – our energy security.
  6. The world we leave behind.

Join us in bettering your own circumstances and our world. Download money- and-gasoline-saving tips, take the Drive Smarter Challenge, share this valuable information with 6 family members and friends – and get discounts on fuel-efficient products!

The 6° Concept

Like those well-known concepts, "6° of separation" and the “butterfly effect,” our “6° concept” highlights both the multiplier effect and the surprising interconnectedness of all things. In ever-widening circles of action/reaction, our gasoline use effects:

Ourselves. Our Families. Our Communities. Our World. Our Country. Our State.

What we do affects things not just close to home, but also around the globe – and vice versa.

We have the power to make a measurable difference – as individuals and collectively.

Join us in taking the Drive Smarter Challenge which offers benefits for you, your family, and the planet.


  1. Our gasoline use affects our personal well-being.

    The Alliance to Save Energy estimates that in 2009, the average U.S. household will spend about $2,200 to fuel its vehicles. Average U.S. households spend nearly 10% of their annual income on vehicles, including both fuel and upkeep, according to the Transportation Energy Data Book.

    It may seem difficult to significantly reduce the number of miles we drive. After all, we have to get to work, take the kids to school and to doctor appointments, care for elderly parents, and go to the supermarket, and so on. But being more mindful about fuel efficiency can put more money in your pockets.

    Interestingly enough, gasoline costs and gasoline use often affect how we feel. How is that? Drivers told the Alliance to Save Energy during our consumer market research that high gas prices, as well as related transportation and other price increases (food, packaging) have forced them to cut back, sometimes even on necessities, making them feel as if "It's taking more and more to do less and less."

    By contrast, saving money on gasoline and related costs made them feel as if they had:

    • Greater financial security;
    • Less stress;
    • Less debt;
    • Greater comfort;
    • More money available for necessities like groceries/putting food on the table or paying bills;
    • Resources for emergencies; and
    • The ability to dine out more or take trips/vacations.

    The Drive Smarter Challenge gives you the tips, tools, and tremendous resources to take greater control of your gas costs and the way you live.

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  2. Our gasoline use affects the prices we pay at the pump.

    It‘s a matter of supply and demand – oil prices go up as our energy use (demand) goes up and supplies tighten.

    Oil prices can also be affected by other things – political tensions or wars in oil-rich areas of the world, the slide in the value of the dollar, production decisions by OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries), speculation by investors, and refinery disruptions.

    The increase in crude oil prices has been steep. The year 2008 saw a record high – more than $127 for a barrel of oil.

    Prices are likely to remain higher than normal, not only due to U.S. oil demand, but also to increasing oil consumption around the world, particularly in some large developing countries like China and India.

    According to projections by the U.S. Department of Energy's Energy Information Administration (EIA):

    • U.S. oil consumption will increase from 20.6 million barrels a day in 2007 to 21.9 million million barrels per day in 2030, notwithstanding a significant growth of alternative fuels.
    • China‘s daily consumption is expected to rise by an average of 3.6% a year, from 7.1 million barrels a day in 2006 to 16.5 million in 2030.
    • India‘s daily consumption is expected to increase by 3.9% annually, from 2.6 million barrels a day in 2007 to 6.5 million in 2030.

    But we can work together for the common good. When large numbers of people take fuel-efficiency steps, it can add up to measurable savings of money and energy, as well as ”big picture“ benefits for all of us. Indeed, if we all used less gasoline, over time gas prices could drop. And in the meantime, we would be lowering our own costs.

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  3. Vehicle emissions effect the air we breathe.

    The transportation sector accounts for 50% of U.S. urban air pollution. Mobile sources (cars, trucks, and buses) also are significant contributors to air toxics – pollutants known or suspected to cause cancer or other serious environmental effects, according to the Alliance to Save Energy's report, The Drive to Efficient Transportation, May 2005. Air toxics and criteria pollutants can aggravate asthma, bronchitis, and other breathing problems, especially in combination with other environmental factors.

    Transportation-related pollutants contribute to unhealthy air quality and, therefore, can aggravate asthma, bronchitis, and other breathing problems, either alone or in combination with other environmental factors.

    The oil and gas and automotive industries have worked with EPA since 2004 to meet new vehicle and fuel standards that reduce emissions of criteria pollutants and VOCs. And the recently passed Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 will result in a reduction of an estimated 1.2 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions through 2022.

    But consumers have the power to do much more. We can improve the air we breathe and help ensure our respiratory health by properly maintaining our vehicles, driving sensibly, and choosing more fuel-efficient new and used vehicles and, when possible, using public transit, carpooling, biking, walking, and telecommuting.

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  4. Our gasoline use affects our nation‘s economic well-being.

    Higher oil and gasoline prices often lead to higher prices not only for essential goods like food that need to be transported, but also for packaging, airline tickets, delivery services, and more. Consumers may have to trim spending in other areas which are then hurt economically. But when we cut our gasoline and other energy use and costs, it frees up the money saved for more productive purposes. On a cumulative basis, that‘s true for the nation as a whole, just as for an individual or family.

    • Experts at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the U.S. Department of Energy attest that recessions often follow oil price shocks. [Source: Oil Price Shocks and the Macroeconomy: What has been learned since 1996, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and U.S. Department of Energy, Donald W. Jones, Paul N. Leiby, Inja K. Paik, October 2005]
    • Other experts agree: ”Oil price increases have preceded every recession since 1971.“ [Source: Oil Prices, Monetary Policy, and Counterfactual Experiments, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, Charles T. Carlstrom (Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland) and Timothy S. Fuerst (Bowling Green State University), October 2005, papers.ssrn.com]

    Development and implementation of fuel-efficient transportation technologies can create new jobs for U.S. workers. Donald Gilligan, president of the National Association of Energy Service Companies (NAESCO), recently told the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works that energy efficiency creates jobs and spurs economic growth, and that replacing oil imports ”with good jobs in energy efficiency is a benefit to the whole country.“ [Source: epw.senate.gov ]

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  5. Our gasoline use affects our nation‘s growing dependence on foreign oil – our energy security.

    The U.S. sits on only 2% of the world‘s known oil reserves and accounts for 5% of the world‘s population – yet we consume 25% of the world‘s oil.

    According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration:

    • EIA’s Annual Energy Outlook (2008) indicates that U.S. oil demand is expected to increase from 20.6 million barrels a day in 2007 to 21.9 million barrels per day in 2030, notwithstanding a significant growth of alternative fuels.
    • 66% of U.S. oil was imported in 2007, with roughly half coming from politically unstable regions of the world.

    But consumers have the power to change those statistics for the better.

    For example, if everyone buying a new vehicle purchased one of the most efficient models in each vehicle class (passenger cars, SUVs, light trucks, minivans), U.S. drivers would use about 1.9 billion fewer gallons of gasoline, saving about $6 billion annually (at a gas cost of $3.21 per gallon). This would also eliminate greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to about 5 million tons of carbon, comparable to preserving around 117,000 acres of forest from deforestation. [Source: Alliance to Save Energy, fueleconomy.gov, U.S. Climate Technology Cooperation Gateway]

    Greater fuel efficiency simultaneously reduces households’ gasoline costs and can contribute to greater energy security for our nation.

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  6. Our gasoline use affects the world we leave behind.

    Simply by reducing our gasoline use, we can reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that harm our environment, thereby leaving behind a better world for our children and grandchildren.

    The Alliance to Save Energy's report, The Drive to Efficient Transportation, May 2005, and other Alliance research notes:

    • The transportation sector produces approximately one-third of total U.S. carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, which contribute to global warming. And motor vehicles alone account for about 25% of U.S. CO2 emissions – the transportation sector’s primary contribution to greenhouse gas emissions.
    • CO2 emissions are directly proportional to fuel economy – each 1% decrease (increase) in fuel consumption results in a corresponding 1% decrease (increase) in CO2 emissions.

    The less gasoline used, the less money we pay, the less pollution we create, and the more we protect our planet.

    Visit our resource center for more information on how to be more fuel efficient and save money. Here's just one way we can make a difference when purchasing a new or used car.

    • Purchasing the most fuel-efficient vehicle in a particular class can not only save consumers a considerable amount on annual fuel costs, it also can considerably reduce harmful emissions. For example, the Alliance estimates that a vehicle that gets five more miles per gallon than your current vehicle will emit about 17 fewer tons of greenhouse gases over its lifetime.

Bringing the 6 ° of Fuel Efficiency concept full circle, we see that the personal and the global are closely related, and that we can each make positive changes that will benefit ourselves and our families, our communities, our states, our country, and even Planet Earth.

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