Jon Coifman or Eben Burnham-Snyder, 202/289-6868 (NRDC)
Michelle Mulkey, 202/822-5200, 415/987-7377 (Detroit Project)
Campaign Slams Detroit, Washington as U.S. Gas Mileage Hits 22-Year
and the Detroit Project Rip Automakers for Broken Fuel-Saving Pledges
Ads Spotlight Mideast Oil Dependence as Senate Starts Energy Security
WASHINGTON, D.C. (May 5, 2003) - The heated debate over America's
dependence on Middle East oil returns to the airwaves this week
with a provocative new ad campaign challenging both Detroit car
companies and Washington policy makers to deliver fuel-efficient
cars and SUVs.
ads are a joint venture of NRDC (the Natural Resources Defense Council)
and the Detroit Project, an advocacy group co-founded by author
and columnist Arianna Huffington. With humor and polish, they turn
a glossy car commercial on its head - showcasing the high-mileage,
high-performance cars and trucks Detroit could build today, but
won't. Viewers can see the spots online at www.nrdc.org.
ads hit at a critical juncture in the nation's post-war political
agenda. They follow last Friday's news from the Environmental Protection
Agency that U.S. fuel economy reached a 22-year low in 2002, and
come just as the Senate takes up controversial new energy legislation.
The campaign also appears at the same time that American companies
are abandoning voluntary fuel-saving pledges.
needs a line of cars that can get us to work in the morning without
sending us to war in the afternoon," said Huffington. "If
today's vehicles averaged 40 mpg, we would save more oil than we
import each year from the Persian Gulf. We have the technology to
start fixing the problem, but the Big Three in Detroit and their
friends in Congress and the White House are blocking the road."
companies have opposed every serious effort to improve safety and
fuel economy, according to NRDC, while their voluntary efforts have
come to nothing. Last month Ford Motor Company abandoned a much-touted
promise to increase the efficiency of its SUVs by 25 percent, and
scaled back plans for a fuel-saving hybrid SUV. That same week,
General Motors began stressing caveats and fine print undercutting
widely advertised hybrid plans announced by the company just a few
is waving a white in the battle for energy security," said
NRDC President John Adams. "Car companies are blaming American
consumers for a scandal that starts in Detroit and ends in Washington.
Every car and truck in America should be safe and have the most
efficient technology possible. What could be more patriotic?"
cannot drill its way out of the problem. The U.S. has just 3 percent
of world oil reserves, compared with 65 percent beneath the Persian
Gulf. Experts say controversial proposals to drill for oil in the
pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge would expand reserves by
a mere one third of one percent.
import more than half our daily oil from some of the most politically
unstable places in the world, in turn sending send more than $20
billion every year just to the Gulf region. And our oil problems
aren't just the Middle East: Recently, crises in Venezuela and unrest
in Nigeria each caused price spikes and supply disruptions in the
you were for or against the war in Iraq, we can all agree that it's
time to make sure our military and economic strength are never held
captive to the politics of petroleum," Huffington said. "We
need cars and trucks that meet our transportation and safety needs
without sacrificing our freedom, security or prosperity."
and the Detroit Project say carmakers are using "checkbook
diplomacy" to keep better solutions off the road. Since 1990
the auto industry has made more than $80 million in federal campaign
contributions, according to Federal Election Commission reports.
has been fighting safety and fuel economy standards for 30 years,
all the while promising voluntary solutions that never arrive. It's
time for sensible standards that put existing technology on the
road in every car, truck and SUV," Adams said. "Kicking
our oil addiction means more money in our pockets, more jobs in
our economy, and more freedom for America to stand tall in the world."
cars are required to average 27.5 mpg while SUVs, pickups and minivans
classified as light trucks must get just 20.7 mpg. For years, lawmakers
have exempted SUVs and light trucks from automotive safety, pollution,
and fuel economy rules, and even given them special tax breaks.
All these moves stifle innovation where it is needed most. As a
result, major advances have bypassed half of the new vehicles sold
American automakers are standing still, their Japanese competitors
are pressing ahead. Last month, Toyota introduced the second generation
of its pioneering hybrid system in the 2004 Prius, a five-passenger
car that is bigger, faster and cleaner than today's model and gets
15 percent better mileage (an estimated 55 mpg). Toyota will introduce
the system in a Lexus SUV next year, promising V-8 performance and
the mileage of a 4-cylinder compact. The company expects to sell
300,000 hybrids a year worldwide by 2005.
automakers and the Bush administration say we should wait for the
emerging technology of hydrogen-powered fuel cells instead of using
existing solutions to meet stronger fuel economy standards today.
fuel cells are a highly promising answer in the long run, experts
agree it will be at least two decades before they are available
in large enough numbers to make a dent in oil demand. In the meantime,
Americans will keep buying 17 million new cars and trucks each year.
NRDC calculates that a 40 mpg fuel economy standard would save nearly
25 times more oil by 2020 than even the most aggressive fuel cell
cells are a terrific long-term solution," said Adams. "But
we have an energy security problem now, and we need solutions now."
television ads will air in markets across the country, including
Detroit, Washington, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose,
Philadelphia, and Tampa-St. Petersburg. A print version is appearing
in USA Today on May 7. The spots were directed by Scott Burns, co-creator
of the 'Got Milk?' campaign.
more information, visit www.nrdc.org or www.thedetroitproject.com