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[greenyes] Auto Fuel Efficiency and Strange Bedfellows


washingtonpost.com

An Unlikely Meeting Of the Minds
For Very Different Reasons, Groups Agree on Gas Alternatives
By Greg Schneider
March 31, 2005; Page E01

Environmentalists aren't the only ones applauding the sales stumble of big
SUVs and pickups in the face of high gas prices.
Groups of conservative Republicans see an opportunity to step up a campaign
to promote alternative-fuel vehicles and wean the nation from dependence on
foreign oil. While skeptical about links between autos and global warming,
the conservatives have concluded that cutting gasoline consumption is a
matter of national security.

A who's who of right-leaning military hawks -- including former CIA director
R. James Woolsey and Iraq war advocate Frank J. Gaffney Jr. -- has joined
with environmental advocates such as the Natural Resources Defense Council
to lobby Congress to spend $12 billion to cut oil use in half by 2025. The
alliance highlights how popular sentiment is turning against the no-worries
gas-guzzling culture of the past decade and how alternative technologies
such as gas-electric hybrids are finding increasingly widespread support.

"I think there are a number of things converging," said Gary L. Bauer, a
former Republican presidential candidate and former head of the Family
Research Council who has signed on to a strange-bedfellows coalition of
conservatives and environmentalists called Set America Free. "I just think
reasonable people are more inclined right now to start thinking about ways
our country's future isn't dependent on . . . oil from a region where there
are a lot of very bad actors."

The war in Iraq and escalating terrorism in the Middle East have shaken
Americans' faith in cheap, plentiful gasoline. The average price of a gallon
of regular gasoline reached $2.153 yesterday, according to the AAA Fuel
Gauge report, and benchmark crude oil closed at $53.99 per barrel, compared
with $36.25 a year ago. Last week a survey sponsored by the nonpartisan
Civil Society Institute in Boston found that two-thirds of Americans feel it
is "patriotic" to buy a more fuel-efficient vehicle.

At the same time, the success of the Toyota Prius and the Ford Escape Hybrid
has demonstrated that drivers don't have to sacrifice fun, performance or
status to achieve better gas mileage. The Civil Society survey of more than
1,000 people -- evenly divided between men and women -- found that nearly
two-thirds worry that Japanese and other foreign automakers are pulling
ahead of their U.S. counterparts in alternative-fuel technology.

Such fears are changing many long-standing positions on the issue of fuel
economy. While Democrats have rallied against America's oil dependence --
Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.) termed the issue a national emergency during last
year's presidential campaign -- Republicans have been more likely to
advocate further exploration for oil reserves than to sound the alarm about
the need for new technologies.
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_________________________
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Cell: (608) 698-1314
eMail: anderson@no.address
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