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Survey: 3 Out of 4 Americans Want Detroit and Washington to Impose 40 MPG Fuel-Efficiency Standard

Support for increasing fuel-efficiency standards. Click to enlarge.

Fully 78% of Americans want Washington to impose a 40 mile per gallon (mpg) fuel-efficiency standard for American vehicles, according to a new Opinion Research Corporation (ORC) national opinion survey released by the nonprofit Civil Society Institute (CSI).

Ninety percent of Americans expect gas prices to rise again “in the near future,” with nearly half (46%) “definitely” expecting a resumption of higher fuel prices.

According to the survey, 70% of Americans say they are factoring “expected future gasoline price increases into consideration in thinking about buying a new vehicle.”Forty-five percent say they are now more likely to buy a “hybrid or other fuel-efficient vehicle” than they were six months ago, compared to 30% who are unchanged in their plans and 24% who are less likely to make such a vehicle purchase.

These findings should be a real wake-up call to any auto executive in Detroit who is hoping against hope that Americans will fall back in love with gas-hog vehicles. What Americans are saying to American carmakers is that they are ready for change. We know the technology exists for higher fuel efficiency that will save money, reduce this nation’s dependence on foreign oil and diminish the pollution linked to global warming. What Detroit needs to realize is that low gas prices have not—and will not—lead to the demise of the now very strong and continuing demand for more fuel-efficient vehicles. If American carmakers make that wrong-headed gamble for a second time, it may just be the last losing bet they can afford to make.

—Pam Solo, Civil Society Institute President and Founder

Other results of the Opinion Research Corporation survey conducted for the Civil Society Institute include the following:

  • 76% think US automakers have been blind to US consumer needs and tastes;
  • 50% think that Japan is ahead of the US in hybrid or other fuel-efficient technologies, 36% think the countries are roughly equal and 6% think the US is ahead.
  • 85% support White House pressure on automakers for reducing “energy consumption and related global-warming pollution”;
  • 66% support Federal incentives for automakers in return for increasing investments in fuel-efficient technologies;
  • 90% want automakers to start selling more fuel-efficient vehicles that they make or sell overseas but do not offer in the US; and
  • 74% support federal gasoline taxes devoted to renewable energy R&D.

Results are based on telephone interviews conducted among a sample of 1,016 adults (509 men and 507 women) age 18 and over, living in private households, in the continental United States. Interviewing by ORC was completed during the period of November 9-12, 2006. Completed interviews of the 1,016 adults were weighted by four variables: age, sex, geographic region, and race, to ensure reliable and accurate representation of the total adult population. The margin of error at a 95 percent confidence level is plus or minus 3 percentage points for the sample of 1,016 adults. Smaller sub-groups will have larger error margins.

CSI has conducted more than a dozen major surveys since 2003 on energy issues, including vehicle fuel-efficiency standards, global warming and renewables. CSI is the parent organization of and the Hybrid Owners of America.




40mpg 6000lb SUV with fast acceleration...I welcome that. Then I would be able to pick up a 2500lb sub-compact with decent acceleration and close to 100mpg fuel economy.

Gas rationing is my favorite choice. Up to X gallons you get the standard price...above that you get the highly taxed "gas guzzler" price. Then they can remove the "gas guzzler" tax from the vehicles and apply it to the people who actually guzzle the gas. Carpooling? Then anyone in the car can use part of their ration when they get gas. Driving with a spouse or other licensed drivers all the time? Share your gas ration...seems reasonable to me since you are likely to be both going to the same place in one car anyways. This way you can still buy your oversize SUV if you want but you don't pay a penalty unless you actually do use more than a "reasonable" share of gas.


No one person in the world can "SET" the price.

Huh, did anyone anywhere ever claim that they do? Or is that a strawman?

Denial of an extreme strawman is used to shift discussion away from a rational evaluation of the relative power and influence of various actors upon energy prices.


Pointing to new models that sell in the dozens of units per month (Camry hybrid) hardly changes that.

What you said is "given the sacrifices needed to acheive 40 mpg in the real world". So what are those "sacrifices"? It's the top-selling automobile in the country, and the price point of the hybrid version is below the average price of a new vehicle. It has ample horsepower. So what exactly is the "sacrifice" that would be necessary to get most vehicles up around that fuel economy level?

As for the sales volume, this wensite has charts showing several thousand units per month, not "dozens of units".


Given the level of SUV sales in the US, I find this survey extremely hard to believe.


Calm down boys.
If you want to fix economy standards - in a democracy, something else has to give and that thing should be emission standards.
If you mandate aggressive improvements in economy you had better give the manufacturers some time and allow them focus on economy or perhaps CO2 but don't expect them to improve emissions at the same time.
If you really wanted better economy you could relax the specs so diesel could could be used - like matching the latest or next Euro standards.
Higher taxes won't do it - in Europe we have fuel at approx $5 / US gallon and we have not got to an average of 40MPG(US).
There are a reasonable nummber of cars that get 40mpg(US) in Europe, but they are either very small, diesel or mid sized hybrids - cars most americans appear to prefer not to drive.

So what am I saying - freeze emission standards, perhaps allow diesel in all states and mandate better CAFE standards. You could back this up with a federal tax on fuel to pay for the research if you liked.

Harvey D.

I enjoyed reading these comments. Is the majority of Green-Congress readers or 75 of the American people disconnected.

We should rejoice. Isn't this survey exactly what we had hope for. The average American finally wants more efficient cars (40 + pmg), and is willing to stop buying American built gas guzzlers from GM/Ford/Chrysler. In fact, they are doing it.

This survey shows that a few months with $3+/gal gas is changing the acquired attitude on bigger inefficient cars.

Politicians with enough guts are needed to justify, sell and impose a progressive gas tax of up to $3/gal over a 6 year time frame.

With gas at $4+/gal, more than 75% would insist on more efficient cars, even 50+ mpg.

Celebrate and do not shoot the messenger nor your fellow Americans


A large gas tax, w/price total floor and ceiling ($2.70-$6.50/ga gasoline & diesel, total), would likely make powerful 10-20 mpg new cars/trucks toys of the upper tier professionals, and the rich (5%). Existing vehicles w/similar fuel consumption levels would likely either be sold off, or stay with current owners as limited use vehicles (10-50 trips/1,000-3,000 mi per year). Pocket rockets (2,500 lbs curb, supercharged/turbo 300hp/300lbft max, Prius level aero, 6 speed AMT), w/variable engine profiles (max economy 120/120, mixed 200/200, max performance 300/300) would be a workaround.
___Those who DO use light duty trucks/vans/large MPVs for work, farmers, construction, delivery (bigger than pizzas, but not UPS lorry size), can get rebates for fuel costs. It would be advantageous for rebates to be scaled, and linked to equiping vehicles w/fuel saving technology. The same would apply for truckers.

Richard C Burton

Patrick; I totally agree with you that a system of "gas rationing",or "base line allowance" to use our public utility's terminology, is the smart way to go.We in California already have driver's licenses that are credit card like, so it should be a fairly easy task to let the gas pump determine if your card (or your rider's)allows you x amount of gas for the base price, then every gallon above that at a price that encourages economy, and is earmarked to promote fuel efficiency. Richard


Harvey D,
Cold snap this winter, likely return of hurricanes, Iran jitters, Nigeria and Venezuela uncertainties, initial lower OPEC output, hot summer, and wild card events will make for high fuel/energy prices next year.


Pizmo --

I misread the hybrid Accord numbers for the hybrid Camry numbers. I stand corrected on that sales figure.

Going forward -- we'll see where the average fleet economy goes over the coming years, both the average economy of all new cars sold, and the average economy of the total fleet in service (as best it can be estimated) as new cars enter and old cars are retired.

Up to now, I think it is hard to deny that Americans have chosen a pretty inefficient fleet mix, and pretty driving-intensive habits. This may change, and we'll see how those changes correspond to the attitudes reported in this survey.

My basic contention has been and continues to be that this survey overestimates the current American propensity to choose high efficiency, and probably does so by not supplying the people asked the questions with a realistic picture of what 40 mpg means or will mean in terms of price, performance or product.

Point of referense: The MSRP of the hybrid Camry is $25,900; its MPG is 40/38. It's total passenger plus cargo volume is 112 cu.ft. (1, 2). The MSRP of a Ford Five Hundred SEL with AWD is $26,080; its MPG is 19/26 and its volume is 129 cu.ft. (3, 4). Plus, Ford gives a better rebate off the MSRP.

The point is, with hybrids you either pay more money or get less car -- though you can make it up on fuel economy in the long run assuming the numbers crunch. That fact has to be made clear to survey participants, or alternatively, the R&D costs associated with going from the present state of technology to one where the production price differential does not exist.

That is not to say that hybrids are bad. Far from it. The costs of going over to hybrids is almost certainly much lower than the price of business as usual, in the long term. But the distribution of those costs across people and across time has to be made clear, and I don't think this survey did that.



Now that gasoline is becoming more expensive in the USA, and the average Joe is starting to grok that future prices are likely only to go higher, said Joe would certainly like his next pickup to get 40mpg--who wouldn't?

The problem Joe and the rest of us have is that the pattern of development in much of the country doesn't support viable alternatives to driving. If Joe lives on a cul de sac in the 'burbs, he probably has to drive just to get a half-gallon of milk from the store. His wife Jane is shuttling the kids all over creation for soccer practice, ballet lessons, and on and on. Joe drives 35 miles to work, alone in his car, fighting the traffic, burning gas in stop-and-go traffic. A hybrid car/truck would help reduce the waste, but only at the margins, I'm afraid. Green cars won't fix the wasteful use of energy that has been programmed into Joe and Jane's life by the urban planning malpractice of suburban sprawl.


This is funny stuff, no welcome level headed debate allowed. You must be a big oil hating, gas taxing greenie weinnie or your dissed.
Taxes, sure they would have the affect 0% chance of actually happening. You false outrage grennies are forgitting the poor working joe who's job is being outsource.
And while hybrid card(which I invest in) now make up a whopping 1.5% the F150 is still the top selling vehicle. Give American car makers incentive to make the SUV's/trucks more efficient and you'll see the biggest gains.
Thanks for the comedy though


One alternative would be to make consumers prepay for 200,000 miles of gasoline.

Using the Camry example, a bare-bones 4 cyl with automatic is 19,320 and a hybrid is 26,200 - a difference of a little less than 7,000. But take the rolling average of regular gasoline for the past year (2.64) and the estimated FE of the conventional 27 and the hybrid at 39, and it comes to 6,000 more for fuel for the conventional over 200K miles of driving.

Obviously there'd be much more to it than that, but the basic concept of front-loading fuel costs would level the playing field.


"Americans have voted and continue to vote with their wallets, in addition to their ballots, and our current total automotive infrastructure is the result."

Hey, let's not forget the string-pulling big oils and cronies who have consistently subsidized Ameri-gas prices with aggression, spin marketing and... F E A R. Had these guys wanted to tolerate alternate fuel vehicles we'd have had Li-ion batteries and bio-fuel thirty years ago.

Just because you have a "vote" doesn't mean you are being given good choices to vote for.


"urban planning malpractice of suburban sprawl."

These practices are only practical and desired by consumers due to cheap transportation fuels. A national plan to phase in a $3/gal gas tax at $0.01 per month over 25 years would gradually change these designs.

Just think, if the previous generation had the foresight and fortitude to do this after the last oil crisis we would already be there.

Robert Schwartz

What they really meant is that 3 out of every 4 Americans think that everybody else should br required to buy 40 mpg cars. Alternatively, they think that the water carburetor is for real.



Agreed. Gradual increase in motor fuel taxes would be good policy. Future development can and must be smarter. I don't know where that leaves the existing suburbanite stranded far from the office--telecommuting?


NBK-Boston wrote: Point of referense: The MSRP of the hybrid Camry is $25,900; its MPG is 40/38. It's total passenger plus cargo volume is 112 cu.ft. (1, 2). The MSRP of a Ford Five Hundred SEL with AWD is $26,080; its MPG is 19/26 and its volume is 129 cu.ft. (3, 4). Plus, Ford gives a better rebate off the MSRP.

The point is, with hybrids you either pay more money or get less car...

It would appear that the data you cite here kinda undermines your point. The extra 17 cu. ft. in the Ford may or may not be useable space, I haven't compared them closely. For most people, AWD is not wildly better than FWD. On the plus side for the Camry: It's a Toyota. Great NVH. Spectacular Mileage. Same price. If the Ford were half as much, that would be different. If the Camry were some ridiculous little micro car, that would be different too. But it's not. It's a big, powerful, comfortable, reliable 5 passenger car. That's the real point- You get a 40 mpg car and you don't have any serious sacrifice. All the Browns posting here sound like they feel threatened; what a horrible, awful country this would be if we didn't all have a God-given right to pay fifty grand for a 350 horse Escalade pimpmobile, fave of ghetto thugs and Republicans alike.


freeze writes: I'm sorry but this is BS statistics.

Because you don't like the results?

john galt

GR hit it. The american market is not driven solely by consumer demand (what I keep seeing as "people have voted with their wallets). The kabul of automakers, energy companies, and paving companies all have a vested interest in keeping people blindly addicted to automobile-centric life. Big industry most definitely shapes the reality through influencing politicians, plus marketing to the mass public that is substance dependent on main stream media worse than a daily hit on the crack pipe. Most americans buy what they are programmed to buy through advertising. The rich and powerful must be laughing hysterically at how the middle and lower classes are totally sucked in. The corporations tell us what to buy via marketing in magazines, TV, billboards, and radio, and we blindly open our checkbooks. What to label this consumer behavior...stupidity, blissful ignorance, brutal reality ??? Urban sprawl and 16 lane highways as far as you can see, one of the great outcomes of capitalism, eh?


>>Alternatively, they think that the water carburetor is for real.

Just waiting for the bait to be taken. ::popcorn::


Many on this site maintain that our gas guzzling ways are largely a result of mass programming by the corporations. Is the programming different in Europe? And if so, why?


Survey results don't lie, right? LOL


I think people should also look at NBK's earlier point about safety and the size "arms race". This is a major issue here in the US. I owned and drove a Civic Hybrid for two years, which got 40+ mpg, had no significant problems and generally was a wonderful car. Then my wife's parents, driving a Saturn SL1 (roughly the same size as a Civic), were killed by a drunk driving an F250 (who was nearly unhurt, unfortunately). All of a sudden I realized that 5-star crash safety ratings didn't mean much if your vehicle was 1/3 the weight of other vehicles on the road. We desperately need to match safety and MPG goals - it may be that some vehicles are just too small, and also that the large vehicles must be redesigned to reduce the damage that they do to smaller vehicles in crashes (there are some who think we should simply ban the large vehicles, but I think that is impractical for reasons outside this discussion; suffice it to say that many of the construction workers who can justify having a large truck are the same people most likely to drink and drive). In case you're wondering, less than a month after the death of my wife's parents I had traded the hybrid in for a 4300lb SUV, though at least I was able to get a diesel one and stay in the 23mpg range instead of 16. For everything but safety the Civic Hybrid was a great car.


I had traded the hybrid in for a 4300lb SUV, though at least I was able to get a diesel one and stay in the 23mpg range instead of 16. For everything but safety the Civic Hybrid was a great car.

Unfortunately, you seem to be making an emotional decision, not a logical one. The 01-02 Civic had a driver fatality rate of 67 per million vehicle years - the same as all midsize SUVs (with 4WD) as a class. Most truck and SUV size/transmission classes fared worse than the Civic - sometimes by a substantial margin.

In the meantime, the safety technology in Civic has vastly improved since the 01-02 model years.

I'm sorry to hear about your in-laws. That's tough.

Robert Schwartz

George: "freeze writes: I'm sorry but this is BS statistics.-- Because you don't like the results?"

Social scientists use the phrases "expressed preference" and "revealed preference" to make the distinction between what people do and what they say. Clearly, that survey found that a lot of people have learned it is PC to say cars should get 40 mpg, but they still go to the Toyota dealer talking about buying a Prius and drive home in a Sequoia.

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