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Fuel-efficient cars primed to outrun gas prices
Gasoline in the United States costs nearly $2 a gallon. To ease the economic burden on consumers, politicians have recently proposed tax cuts and an increase in domestic oil production. Environmentalists say economic relief rests in more fuel-efficient vehicles.
"Frankly, it's easy to say that we can cut gas taxes or increase oil production," said Holly Ross of the Technology Project, an organization dedicated to social and political change through technology. "But the fact of the matter is, none of these 'solutions' addresses the real problem. It's not oil production but oil consumption we need to be talking about."
Even Sen. Frank Murkowski, R-Alaska, who is promoting more oil drilling in his state, says the Clinton administration's push to increase oil production by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries will not reduce gas prices.
"Any increase in oil production will just go to meet increased demand that has already taken place," Murkowski said in a statement. "Thus, any increase will not result in significant price reductions to consumers ... at best it will just keep them from continuing to spiral out of sight."
Murkowski's answer to soaring gas prices is to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil and open more of the Arctic Wildlife Refuge for drilling. The Technology Project says the solution is a reduction in oil consumption. The group recently launched a web site, GreenCar.org, where consumers can send e-mail to Ford, Chrysler and General Motors, requesting that the Big Three automakers produce more fuel-efficient vehicles to offset rising gas prices.
To date, more than 37,000 people have responded, sending automakers an e-mail postcard that reads, "Next time I shop for a vehicle, I would like to buy a car with the lowest emissions, highest fuel efficiency, and cleanest production processes technologically possible. Please provide affordable clean green cars for consumers like me as soon as possible."
As evidence that the technology exists for the mass production of fuel-efficient cars, Ross cites three examples: electric vehicles, which are already available; gasoline-electric hybrids such as those newly marketed by Toyota and Honda; and fuel-cell cars, which will be introduced shortly.
"Most people think that all fuel-efficient cars have to be tiny a perception that is very much at odds with today's car fashions," said Ross. "The real challenge is to let people know that it is actually possible to make SUVs, minivans and compact cars that get better mileage, emit less and are cleanly produced."
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