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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Expert: Fuel Efficient Cars Good For U.S. Economy

President Bush and the new Congress have an opportunity to boost U.S. automakers, reduce dependence on foreign oil and produce more environmentally friendly vehicles, according to a clean vehicles expert.

Incentives for the production of higher fuel economy vehicles alone isn't sufficient, says Michelle Robinson, Washington director, Clean Vehicles Program, Union of Concerned Scientists.

"Americans need something in return; they need better fuel economy across all vehicle models to help fight high gas prices and America's oil addiction," she says.

Automaker CEOs emerged from a meeting today at the White House announcing an intention to increase production of flex-fuel vehicles (FFVs) to 50 percent by 2012.

"There are already close to 6 million FFVs on the road today, but less than 1 percent actually run on the alternative fuel. Therefore, the increased production of FFVs must be coupled with significant progress in fuel availability and superior fuel economy across the vehicle fleet in order to achieve our energy security goals," Robinson says.

"According to the National Academy of Sciences, automakers have the technology available today to produce 37 miles per gallon (mpg) minivans, 34 mpg SUVs, and 42 mpg family cars, all with the same size, acceleration and safety as we have today," she says. "This technology could take today's fleet fuel economy from 25 mpg (worse than it was 20 years ago) to 35, 37 or even 40 mpg over the next decade. This would create 160,000 new jobs nationwide, including 40,000 in the automotive sector, and save consumers billions of dollars.

"Instead, we are importing 60 percent of our oil and sending $500,000 every minute to other countries to feed our addiction. Meanwhile, the domestic auto industry is struggling," she adds. "The public wants this problem solved and leaders should recognize that a comprehensive effort is required. There is no silver bullet, and the problem is too big to be solved with ethanol, hydrogen, or any other single solution. But if we use less oil by increasing fuel economy, reducing the distances that people drive, and switching to cleaner, sustainable alternative fuels, we can create jobs, increase our security, and reduce the contributions that vehicles make to global warming."


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