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June 02, 2011

Rallying for Smart Transportation Choices

Seattle gatheringThese days we're not just seeing Americans answering polls about wanting better fuel economy for their cars - they're out demanding better transportation choices.

In one example last Wednesday, despite the wind and rain, a group of Washington students, parents and community members gathered at a busy Seattle intersection where two gas stations, with prices pushing $4/gallon, sit on opposite corners of the street. 

With Memorial Day travel ramping up and Seattle drivers filling up, the group came out to educate people about current proposed policy changes to fuel efficiency, collect post card signatures asking President Obama to set higher vehicle fuel efficiency standards, and pass out free tire gauges.

"Sending the message to Obama to set fuel efficiency standards at 60 miles per gallon by 2025 is something I can do to ensure my stepson grows up healthy - and I'm asking fellow Washingtonians to do the same," said Brenna Pink, a mother and student at Seattle University, who was a part of the group talking with drivers at the gas stations.

Seattle chat"We need greater fuel efficiency standards not only to decrease our dependence on oil but also to decrease air pollution." 

For an hour the group engaged drivers at both gas stations in conversation as they filled up their tanks, waited in line, and exited or entered the gas station. Seattle drivers were eager to talk about saving money on gas with higher fuel efficiency standards - and even more eager to take action asking President Obama to set higher fuel efficiency standards. 

One member of the group had a different conversation piece as he approached drivers with a free tire gauge. James Day owns a plug-in hybrid, which he pulled up to the gas station like he would in any other car - but instead of going to the gas pump, he drove up to an outlet at the edge of the station property and plugged in his car.
Seattle hybrid

"I have learned how planning my trip to account for driving a little slower keeps the gas engine running cleaner, or not at all, with the plug-in hybrid. I have learned to route my trip so that it takes advantage of road contours and parking/charging locations," said Day.

"I really enjoy talking with people everywhere I go about how this technology works and getting them excited about making cars cleaner and less wasteful."

Seattle Biker Our oil dependence costs us more each day, whether it's the price at the pump, the dangerous pollution in our air, or the risks we take with our waterways that result in tragedies like the BP oil spill disaster last year.

Washington has done a lot to move beyond oil, but we need the Obama administration to step up and increase vehicle fuel efficiency standards to 60 miles per gallon by 2025.

Yesterday, in a Washington Post editorial - "A Rescue Worth Fueling" - Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner points to the success of GM and Chrysler after billions of tax payer dollars of bailouts.  Geithner concludes:  "What happens next for Chrysler and GM is up to their executives, managers, and workers..."
 
Secretary Geithner should have included the President in that list - GM and Chrysler and the others need the direction a strong pollution and fuel efficiency standard will give.  Geithner also notes that "years of bad decisions had caused them to progressively lose market share."

The action in Seattle, Washington, was just the first many of actions to come that will give Washington drivers the tools they need to take fuel efficiency into their own hands. But it is up to this Administration to ensure the industry doesn't make years of bad decisions again by setting a 60 mpg standard by 2025. 

This blog post was co-written by Ann Mesnikoff, Director of the Sierra Club Green Transportation Campaign, and Anastasia Schemkes, Green Transportation Organizer at the Washington Sierra Club Chapter.

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