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Published: Tuesday, 7/24/2007

Poll finds strong support for higher fuel efficiency

BY JON CHAVEZ
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

People in Toledo's congressional district and other key districts nationwide want higher vehicle fuel-efficiency standards and reject lesser levels advocated by the auto industry, a survey shows.

The poll, released yesterday and conducted last week among 3,800 people overall, measured attitudes about fuel standards in 35 districts where U.S. representatives have yet to take a position on competing bills. Ohio districts polled were the 9th, 4th, 6th, 11th, 12th, 13th, 17th, and 18th.

The U.S. Senate passed a bill requiring manufacturers' fleets to average 35 miles per gallon by 2020, an increase of 10 mpg over current rules.

But the House has one bill favored by environmentalists for 35 mpg and another favored by the auto industry for 32 mpg.

The House is expected to take up the issue next week.

Key findings of the poll were that consumers want fuel economy standards that are higher and binding and that take effect sooner, said Mark Mellman, president of Mellman Group, which helped do the poll for the bipartisan Pew Campaign for Fuel Efficiency survey.

They want such standards even if they would hurt American auto companies and help foreign automakers, cost American jobs, keep U.S. auto workers from getting pensions and benefits, result in lighter, unsafe cars, increase the costs of new autos, and result in fewer sport-utility vehicles, minivans, and pickup trucks, the poll found.

In Ohio, 77 percent of those surveyed supported that view. In Michigan, 71 percent felt that way in the key 15th District, which is U.S. Rep. John Dingell's territory and includes parts of the Detroit area. Overall, the poll had a margin of error of 5 percent.

Respondents overall thought it unlikely that cars, trucks, and SUVs will be too small and less safe with higher fuel standards, but likely they will be less powerful. They thought it unlikely the economy would be harmed and that auto workers would lose jobs, pensions, and benefits.

Greg Martin, a spokesman for General Motors Corp., said the auto industry fully supports higher fuel economy standards, but that pollsters seldom give those surveyed hard numbers about what such changes may eventually cost.

Contact Jon Chavez at:

jchavez@theblade.com

or 419-724-6128.



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