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Frustrated with gas prices?

READ CU’s Automobile Fuel Efficiency Survey, letter to the President, and gasoline price study.
SEND letter to President Bush
Thursday, May 27, 2004

Adam Goldberg, CU, (202) 462-6262
Mark Cooper, CFA, (301) 384-2204

New Survey Shows Consumers Overwhelmingly
Support Federal Action To Improve
Automobile Fuel Efficiency Standards

Consumer Groups Renew Push For Better MPG, Other Measures, To Bring Gas Prices Down

(Washington, D.C.) – Citing new polling data that show consumers overwhelmingly support action by the federal government to increase automobile fuel efficiency standards, national consumer groups today renewed calls for the Bush Administration to take action on both the demand-side and the supply-side to address the current gasoline price crunch.

The survey, conducted by Consumers Union (CU), the independent non-profit publisher of Consumer Reports, found that:

  • 81 percent of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that the federal government should require automobile manufacturers to produce automobiles that achieve higher fuel efficiency than most new models on sale;
  • 91 percent think automobile manufacturers should be required to provide accurate information regarding gas mileage that reflects how people drive their cars in real-life situations;
  • Only 23 percent thought that the federal government should not be involved with the regulation of fuel efficiency; and
  • One-third felt that they were not getting the gas mileage promised by the manufacturer on the window sticker.
“Consumers are really feeling the pinch of higher gas prices,” said Adam Goldberg, a policy analyst in CU’s Washington office. “They’re looking at a future in which gasoline prices are routinely over $2, or even $3, a gallon and they’d like some leadership from Washington to make sure that their gasoline dollar goes farther.”
CU and the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) recently wrote President Bush asking that he press for a Federal Trade Commission investigation into the oil and gas markets, which the groups believe lack sufficient competition to put any downward pressure on gasoline prices. If any illegal behavior is found, the groups urge swift prosecution. If no illegal activity has taken place, then the results of the investigation should lead to congressional or regulatory action to make the market more competitive and transparent. A copy of the letter can be found here.
“The energy legislation pending before Congress fails to provide meaningful support for increased efficiency or to address the anticompetitive problems in domestic market,” said Mark Cooper, director of research at CFA. “It gives billions of dollars of subsidies to oil companies, who are already raking in record profits, but even the Department of Energy concluded it would not lower the price of gas.”
So that consumers can register their frustration over higher gasoline prices – and demand action to lower prices – CU has also provided a place on its web site where consumers can send the President an email urging him to act to lower gasoline prices.
“Consumers are seeing gasoline prices going up day after day,” Goldberg continued. “Now they’d like to see action out of Washington to do something about it.”
The CU survey was conducted from May 12 to 17, of a random sample of 1,221 US adults. More information on the survey can be found here.
In addition, CU released comments it submitted to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on reforming the automobile fuel economy standards program, known as CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy). CU’s recommendations include:
  • Increasing fuel economy standards for light duty pickup trucks, which now are only required to get 20.7 miles per gallon (mpg), to a modest 25.7 mpg, to be achieved by raising the standards by just 1 mpg per year over the next five years;
  • Increasing the standards for light passenger cars from the current 27.5 mpg to 34.5 mpg over the next five years, and including sport utility vehicles (SUVs) in the passenger car category, instead of classifying them as light trucks as is currently the practice; and
  • Bringing the heaviest passenger vehicles, such as the Hummer and Ford Expedition, into the CAFE program.
“The current CAFE system is disastrous and has helped spawn large, fuel-gulping vehicles,” said Sally Greenberg, CU’s senior product safety counsel. “SUVs and minivans should be treated like all other passenger vehicles and required to meet far higher fuel economy requirements than they are now. The loophole allowing SUVs to get lower gas mileage has to stop.”
More details on CU’s fuel economy proposals, which were submitted on April 27, can be found here.
The groups have also recently released a study, Fueling Profits: Industry Consolidation, Excess Profits & Federal Neglect Domestic Causes Of Recent Gasoline And Natural Gas Price Shocks, demonstrating how consolidation in the domestic oil industry has led to decreased competition and increased prices for consumers. A copy of the study can be found here.

Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports magazine, is an independent nonprofit testing, educational and information organization serving only the consumer. We are a comprehensive source of unbiased advice about products and services, personal finance, health, nutrition and other consumer concerns. Since 1936, our mission has been to test products, inform the public and protect consumers.
The Consumer Federation of America is the nation’s largest consumer advocacy group, composed of over two hundred and forty state and local affiliates representing consumer, senior, citizen, low-income, labor, farm, public power and cooperative organizations, with more than fifty million individual members.