This week, Congress and the U.S. Senate are debating bills that would raise fuel efficiency standards to about 35mpg by 2020 (30mpg for small trucks and SUVs), then increase them by either 4% or 4mpg a year until 2030 (the details seem confused and may vary between the bills in the House and the Senate).
The important thing right now is that Americans express their demand for vehicles that get higher fuel efficiency. If you're a soccer mom who needs a station wagon to haul five kids around after practice, but needs to get at least 35 mpg in the city (and at least 45mpg on the highway) so as not to break the bank at the gas pump, you need to let your representative know so THIS WEEK!!
If you're interested in having it potentially run on 100% Biodiesel, as well as potentially being a plug-in hybrid (these things are not even close to being mutually exclusive, and would in fact complement one another quite nicely), mention this too!
This is where Congress can be made to work for you, to apply the necessary pressure to the automakers to accomplish these goals. Call the Congressional Switchboard at (202)224-3121 and your call will be forwarded to any member of Congress. I can't stress enough how much you need to do so this week, as automakers are in D.C. using the fear factor, telling Congress that they can't significantly improve mileage rates for their vehicles. As you may recall, this is the same industry that claimed that air bags, seat belts, anti-lock brakes and other safety devices would be too expensive to make standard in all cars. Fuel economy standards in Europe, however, are already above 40mpg, and many American automakers also make models for the European market. So it would seem that there is no real obstacle to meeting the proposed fuel efficiency standards for the United States. If anything, our goals are too low!
Furthermore, it can't hurt to remind the automakers themselves of your needs, even though they have an institutional bias against highly-fuel-efficient vehicles that is deeply rooted in politics, history, ego and pride. The more they hear from potential customers who just won't buy a gas-guzzler from them, and will continue to refuse to purchase a new vehicle from them until it gets better gas mileage, the more likely they will be to change their minds on this issue -- all other factors aside.
Contact information for some of the major automakers is here:
Ford: (800)392-FORD or Ford Motor Company, Customer Relationship Center, Box 6248, Dearborn, Mich. 48126.
GM/Saturn: (800) 553-6000 or Customer Assistance Center, 100 Saturn Parkway, Mail Drop 371-999-S24, Spring Hill, Tenn. 37174.
Nissan: (800) NISSAN-1 (800-647-7261) or Nissan Consumer Affairs, Box 685003, Franklin, Tenn. 37068-5003.
Mitsubishi: (888) MITSU2006 (800-648-7820) or Mitsubishi Motors North America, Inc., PO Box 6014, Cypress, Calif. 90630-0014.
Toyota: (800) 331-4331 or Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc. 19001 South Western Ave. Dept. WC11, Torrance, Calif. 90501.
Phone calls would be a great way to start, but printed letters would be even better. My sense is that electronic inquiries (emails, etc.) are too easily ignored in such large bureaucracies as auto companies.
Please post your thoughts here, especially if you are inspired to make some calls and/or write some letters!