How much more do you think you pay for the same road trip today versus 40 years ago? Because gasoline costs so much more in 2012 than it did in 1972—$3.60 per gallon versus $.36 ($1.96 per gallon when adjusted for inflation), you probably think it would be much more expensive now. Think again.
When George and Tom took the 2,451-mile-trip down Route 66 in 1972, in a 1972 Ford Mustang, it cost $79.71, which when adjusted for inflation equals $437.62. When they took the same trip this summer, in a 2012 Ford Mustang, they spent $441.92.
Why didn’t the cost change? The answer is increased fuel efficiency. The 1972 Mustang had a fuel efficiency of 11.1 miles per gallon and needed 220.8 gallons of gasoline for the trip, while the 2012 Mustang has a fuel efficiency of 20 miles per gallon and needed only 122.6 gallons of gasoline for the trip.
Using less gasoline not only saves money at the pumps, it helps the country to become more energy independent. The key factor that determines U.S. energy independence is the amount of petroleum that we import. At present, we import roughly 11,326 thousands of barrels per day of petroleum, and approximately two-thirds of that petroleum is used for transportation purposes; it is refined into gasoline and diesel fuel. As the U.S. imports less petroleum, our energy independence increases. In 2012, our energy independence is 74, as measured by the Washington & Jefferson College Energy Index.