Groups fight over fuel economy proposals

WASHINGTON: Legislation recently proposed in the Senate proposal to raise fuel economy standards to a "fleet average" of 35 MPH by 2020 has triggered a number of public outreach efforts by industry and environmental groups.

WASHINGTON: Legislation recently proposed in the Senate proposal to raise fuel economy standards to a "fleet average" of 35 MPH by 2020 has triggered a number of public outreach efforts by industry and environmental groups.

Indicating the high level of concern generated among the auto industry by the proposed increase, the CEOs of General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler Group visited DC together on June 6 to personally lobby Senators for consider measures they say are less likely to harm the competitiveness of their firms and decrease consumer choice.

Supporting the effort is the nine-member Auto Alliance, which along with the Big Three US makers, also includes Mazda, Mitsubishi, and Volkswagen. Efforts by the Alliance include the launch, with the assistance of online advocacy firm Capitol Advantage, of a Web site at www.drivecongress.com to encourage consumers, auto company employees and others to write Congress in opposition to the changes.

GM is backing a Web site, at www.drivingamericasfuture.com, with similar aims.

Charles Territo, director of communications for the Auto Alliance, said communications by his group also includes directly lobbying, outreach to blogs, and ads in DC outlets like Roll Call and Congressional Quarterly. along with newspapers and radio networks in 11 US states where larger vehicles use is more prevalent.

“There’s a perception that the industry is opposed to fuel economy increases, and that’s not the reality,” Territo said “We’re working to share with legislators all of the positive fuel economy improvements that have been made.”

Environmental groups are conducting outreach as well in support of the original proposal The Sierra Club on its Web site is promoting a calculator that shows how much money consumers would save from higher standards, is doing earned and paid media outreach in a number of states, and sent members to gas stations over the Memorial Day weekend to encourage supporters to call Congress.

Compromise proposals being developed in the House and Senate would set average fuel economy standards for cars at 36 MPH by 2022 and 30 for trucks and other larger vehicles at 30. Josh Dorner, who leads Sierra Club’s energy and global warming communications, said support in Congress for automakers makes its “difficult to say what will happen” with the original proposal.

“It’s hard to find people who are opposed to raising fuel economy,” Dorner said. “[But while] there’s clear momentum in the public to raise fuel economy standards, what happens in congress may or may not reflect that.”

 

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