At 7:41 pm last night in Wheeling, West Virginia, the cell phone rang. On the line was Karen Wayland, our legislative director, telling us: "Come on home, boys." And so ended our nearly two-week, 2,000-mile trek through four states spreading the message: '35 MPG or Bust.'
Turns out that Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) decided late yesterday not to include a fuel-economy measure in the House energy legislation. That bill is expected to pass tomorrow without CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy). While Rep. Pelosi expressed strong support for raising fuel-economy standards to 35 miles per gallon, she declined to allow either of the two competing House bills to come up for a vote. The bill we favor, the so-called Markey-Platts bill, would save consumers the most money, save the most oil, and substantially reduce global warming pollution. The opposing bill championed by the auto industy, the so-called Hill-Terry bill, offers much more modest goals that won't make our cars go far enough or fast enough on a gallon of gas.
But the fight is not over. Remember that the Senate passed its own energy bill containing a very favorable fuel economy measure. Most people expect that similar standards will be added to the House energy bill when the two chambers meet during August recess to reconcile their respective legislation. If that doesn't happen, then it's likely that fuel economy will be considered again when Congress takes up global warming legislation in the Fall.
In any case, we consider our Drive Beyond Oil barn-storming tour a rousing success. We drove our hybrid SUV through small towns and large cities all over Maryland, Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia. We educated countless people about the importance of stronger fuel economy, and more important, many of them took action by calling and urging their member of Congress to support '35 mpg or bust!" And our trip generated amazing media coverage, including dozens of radio, television and newspaper stories.
In fact, the coverage didn't end until this morning when I did a radio interview with the #1 talk radio show in Columbus, Ohio. After arriving home from Wheeling at 2 am last night, I just hope my interview made sense!
I believe there is a very good chance that Congress will listen to the will of the people and act soon to strengthen federal fuel economy standards for cars and trucks. If not, then we may be revving up the hybrid for another tour through key congressional districts -- so get ready, America!
But for now, let me share the Top 10 things the team learned on our road trip:
10. Nobody thinks gas prices are too low.
9. People are still confused about hybrids. (Do you plug them in?)
8. The 1908 Ford Model T averaged the same mileage as new cars today: 25 mpg.
7. Snazzy t-shirts and car magnets always draw a crowd.
6. Small town America is alive and well.
5. Ironically, Hummers are always shiny and clean. (What's the point?)
4. Wireless connection is more important than food.
3. Blogging is easy and fun.
2. Never understimate the power of citizen phone calls to Congress.
And the #1 thing we learned...
1. It takes a village to Drive Beyond Oil (Special thanks to the entire NRDC Action Fund team!)