Illinois Poll Finds Clean Cars Best Antidote to $4 Gas

CHICAGO, Illinois, June 3, 2008 (ENS) – By a wide majority, Illinois residents say they want cleaner, more fuel-efficient cars, sooner rather than later, and they are willing to pay more up front for them.

In a statewide poll conducted by InTouch on behalf of environmental law and science groups, 89 percent of people surveyed said they support or strongly support the idea of paying $1,000 more for a new car at the time of purchase if they can recoup those costs in gas savings within two years.

Sixty-five percent of those surveyed put themselves in the “strongly support” column.

The poll of 1,798 residents was conducted on May 22. Its margin of error is plus or minus 2.31 percent.

The survey was commissioned by the Environmental Law and Policy Center; Environment Illinois; Sierra Club, Illinois Chapter; and the Union of Concerned Scientists. The groups are members of the Illinois Climate Action Network.

Jack Darin, director of the Sierra Club’s Illinois chapter, said, “What’s so encouraging about the poll results is that they’re close to uniform statewide. … Urban folks, rural folks – everyone wants more fuel efficient, cleaner cars, SUVs, and pick-ups.”

Fuel efficiency is the goal for Illinois
respondents to a poll in May 2008.
(Photo credit unknown)

Poll results were identical in union and non-union households, with a slightly higher proportion of union respondents saying they would gladly foot a higher bill for a new car up front, in exchange for lower gas prices down the road.

The poll comes just days before an expected vote in the Illinois House of Representatives on House Bill 3424, which would require Illinois to adopt the California Clean Car Standards already in adopted by 14 other states.

No state can implement these standards until the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency waives its weaker standard so that California can put its stricter standard in place. But the EPA has denied California this waiver, so the Clean Car Standards are still in limbo.

The Clean Car Standards include regulation of carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas most responsible for global warming. The worse the fuel efficiency, the more carbon dioxide emitted, so as cars use less gas, they emit less CO2.

“In this era of $4/gallon gas, people need long-term help,” said Howard Learner, executive director of the Environmental Law and Policy Center. “Adopting the Clean Car Standards is a true win-win-win: Good for our economy, good for our environment, and good for our respiratory health.”

When compared to the newly raised federal Corporate Average Fuel Economy, or CAFE, standard of 35 miles per gallon by 2020, 85 percent of those surveyed support requiring stronger standards that would take effect more quickly.

The Clean Car Standards will be phased in over an eight-year period; the average fuel economy for passenger cars will start at six miles more per gallon than under the new CAFE program and will increase to 9.5 miles per gallon more in the final year, the commissioning groups point out.

By reducing demand for gasoline, the Clean Car Standards will help keep gas prices in check, they say.

The groups predict that by 2020, the Clean Car Standards would save Illinois drivers nearly $1.9 billion in fuel costs compared to the new federal CAFE standards.

“Between now and 2020, global warming pollution will be reduced by around 40 percent more in Illinois under the Clean Car Standards than the new CAFE program,” said Ron Burke, director of the Midwest Office for the Union of Concerned Scientists, a national group.

“Plus, the new CAFE program does nothing more to reduce smog-forming pollutants, which will be cut under the Clean Car Standards,” he said.

In this election year, 73 percent of those surveyed said they would be more likely to support a candidate who votes in favor of adopting the Clean Car Standards, while only 11 percent who would support a candidate opposed to the legislation.

Rebecca Stanfield, state director of Environment Illinois said, “It’s time for the entire General Assembly to sit up and take notice. Our state’s residents are on record saying they want cleaner, more fuel efficient cars.”

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