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According to new data released last week by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), the country set a new record for greatest one-month gasoline consumption this past June. The EIA found that the U.S. consumed an average of 9.7 million barrels of gasoline a day in June, resulting in approximately 86 thousand metric tons of carbon pollution.
“These new gasoline consumption numbers are alarming,” said John Olivieri, National Campaign Director for 21st Century Transportation at the United States Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG). “Overreliance on single-occupant vehicle travel and a failure to prioritize 21st century transportation solutions such as public transit, biking, and walking is having a profound impact on overall gasoline consumption and resulting emissions,” he added.
The increase in summer gasoline consumption correlates closely with an increase in summer driving, which rose 3 percent relative to 2015. The new data is also consistent with overall 2015 trends that show an average cumulative travel increase of 3.5 percent compared to 2014, the year global oil prices collapsed. Additionally, EIA data show that the transportation sector has been the largest source of carbon emission in the U.S. from February of this year through July (the most recent data available), based on 12-month moving totals. This is the first time ever that transportation sector has been the largest source of carbon emissions.
“For years, federal transportation policy has favored new and wider roads, while largely ignoring other transportation options. These flawed transportation-spending priorities have created structural incentives for people to drive more,” said Lauren Aragon, Transportation Fellow at U.S. PRIG. “We need to start prioritizing healthy and active transportation solutions such as transit, walking and biking if we are serious about reducing gasoline consumption and pollution,” said added.
Currently, the Obama administration is considering a new rule that could have a significant impact on future gasoline consumption. This rule, a carbon performance standard, could require states localities to consider carbon pollution as part of their long-term transportation plans and set goals to reduce those emissions.
“This new data highlights the need for the Obama administration to move forward with proposals to start tracking, measuring, and taking steps to reduce carbon emissions as part of the long-term transportation planning process,” Olivieri said. “Failure to plan for future greenhouse gas emissions ultimately encourages greater investment in carbon-intensive infrastructure, incentivizing sprawl-based development patterns, greater driving, and increased future gasoline consumption – all of which have significant negative consequences on our collective health as well as the environment,” he added.
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