Polls show strong support for cleaner SUVs

provided by the Sierra Club


he Sierra Club released a new poll last month that shows overwhelming support for cleaning up auto pollution that causes global warming. That poll, and a second poll conducted on behalf of the World Wildlife Fund, show Americans are concerned about global warming and they support stronger miles-per-gallon fuel economy standards as an important step toward protecting our health and environment.

An August 1999 poll of 405 predominantly Independent and Republican New Hampshire voters conducted by Zogby International found overwhelming support for stricter fuel economy standards to reduce global warming, even among very conservative voters. Overall, 75 percent of those polled supported "significantly increasing the fuel economy of new cars, sport utility vehicles and trucks" as a method of decreasing global warming, even if this increase would "add an extra $300 to the average price of a car."

"Some of the most conservative voters in the nation New Hampshire Republicans and Independents overwhelmingly support cleaning up SUVs and other light trucks to curb global warming," said Daniel Becker, Director of the Sierra Club's Global Warming and Energy Program.

Seventy-one percent of those identifying their ideology as conservative and 81 percent of those considering themselves moderate supported a corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) increase. Similarly, 70 percent of Republicans polled and 70.9 percent of independents agreed with a CAFE increase. Support was also strong in union households, with 75 percent favoring CAFE.

Other polls conducted this summer also prove that CAFE is important to voters. In a poll of SUV owners in 31 states conducted by The Mellman Group for the World Wildlife Fund, 72 percent believed that Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs) should be required to meet the same pollution standards as cars. A National Environmental Trust Poll showed that 88 percent of likely Republican primary or caucus voters in California, Iowa, New Hampshire, New York and South Carolina said requiring auto companies to meet fuel efficiency standards is important to them as voters.

"The moral here is that from conservatives in New Hampshire to SUV owners in California to Republicans in Iowa, the American people want to raise CAFE miles per gallon standards to cut global warming. Are our leaders listening? It's time to act," Becker said.

The poll results come just as the Senate is about to vote on a resolution calling on Senators to reject a budget rider which prevents the Department of Transportation from studying a fuel economy increase. Language has been inserted into the Transportation appropriations bill since 1994 prohibiting the Administration from spending any money to study the issue of raising CAFE standards.

"Making cars and SUVs go further on gallon of gas is the biggest single step to curbing global warming and saving oil," said Becker. "We call on Senators to vote with the American people to cut pollution and reject the auto industry's plea for more guzzling and more delay."

CAFE standards were first passed in 1975 and have been a great success cars today travel twice as far on a gallon of gas as cars did before 1975, and each day CAFE standards save 3 million barrels of oil. However, since automakers met the standard in the 80s, fuel economy has stagnated and gone into decline. Today's average fuel economy is its lowest level since 1980, a fact largely due to the popularity of gas-guzzling SUVs and light trucks.