The American public is coming around to demanding a more fuel-efficient homegrown fleet. The Pew Campaign for Fuel Efficiency released a poll this week of almost 4,000 likely voters in seven U.S. states showing that almost 90 percent of "likely voters surveyed favor requiring the automobile industry to improve fuel efficiency...and...favored a 35-mpg standard over 32 mpg and said the changes should take effect by 2018," according to the Detroit News.
The Pew Campaign for Fuel Efficiency, by the way, describes itself as a Washington-based interest group that supports higher fuel-efficiency standards.
This is a turnaround of such historic proportions that we should sit down and take note. Our Hummer-loving, SUV-driving, speed-boat-hugging American public actually supports a law that would require more of us to drive fuel-efficient cars? And that unctuous, oil industry denizen of a president of ours even directs the federal government to consider higher fuel efficiency standards for new cars (which he did in May)? Is this Mars or the good old U.S. of A.?
Americans are starting to get the message. Maybe we're starting to take fuel consumption more seriously because so much of the United States is suffering under a major and unusual drought.
This is especially true on the West Coast, in the Southwest, and even where I live in the mid-Atlantic states. Things are so bad for farmers in Maryland, for example, that the governor last week asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture to declare a drought emergency throughout much of the state.
Maybe, on a less altruistic note, we're getting sick of paying more than $3 per gallon for gas. Maybe we're paying attention to last week's report by the National Petroleum Council, which explained that with world population rising, living standards rising, and energy supplies and refinery capacity staying static, gas prices are going nowhere but up, up, up.
Congress's bill isn't perfect. It does not boost fuel efficiency high enough or quickly enough. Most important, it does nothing to bolster renewable fuels production or tax oil industry windfall profits. But it's a start, and it's an important reversal of decades of intransigence on this most important of issues.