35 MPG or bust team helps with calls to Congress
Frustrated with high gas prices, Gene Cheredar of Champion put in a call to his congressman Monday.
He was one of several people who put in similar calls as three members of the NRDC Action Fund's "35 MPG or Bust" team stopped in Warren. They are on a two-week, three-state road trip trying to build support for the tougher of two competing bills calling for higher fuel economy standards for cars and light trucks.
Congress is set to vote on the issue this week.
After an earlier stop Monday in Youngstown, the environmentalists drove their Toyota Highlander Hybrid to Perkins Park, where the PONY softball tournament games were under way. It gets more than 30 mpg and is used to show people they donát have to give up size to get good mileage.
Scott Laeser approached Cheredar and asked him what he thought of the cost of gas. While prices are down lately, Laeser noted they are higher than they were a year ago.
After Cheredar expressed his frustration, Laeser pointed to his 35 mpg or bust shirt and talked up advantages of higher fuel economy rules.
"Sounds great," Cheredar said. Laeser was ready with a cell phone and Cheredar put in the call to Rep. Timothy J. Ryan asking him to back the tougher of the two bills.
"I just feel prices are way out of line, and oil companies are taking advantage of the people," Cheredar said.
Lynne Huerta of Pennsylvania put in a call saying improved fuel economy would save money for her, especially since she travels "all of the place for softball."
Rob Perks of the NRDC Action Fund, which is affiliated with the National Resources Defense Council, said the higher standards would save Ohio drivers more than $1 billion. Citing reports that say the technology already exists to meet the tougher standards, Perks said Ohio is particularly vulnerable to higher gas prices based on the amount of their income they must spend on fuel.
An NRDC report released earlier this month said also said Ohio is among the 10 states doing the least to reduce dependence on oil.
Not everyone called their congressman. One man from New York said he had doubts because he had heard the tough standards might result in fewer jobs. The team's usual response that Detroit said it couldn't comply with mandates to install seat belts in all vehicles or to use catalytic converters wasn't enough to convince the man to support the tougher bill.
That is the stand Ryan, D-Niles, has taken. While the Senate has approved a bill that calls for a corporate average of 35 mpg by 2020, Ryan is co-sponsor of a rival bill that would raise standards to 32 mpg by 2022. Other local congressmen (Steven C. LaTourette, R-Concord, and Charlie Wilson, D-Bridgeport) mirror Ryan's position.
Spokesman Brad Bauman said last week that Ryan feels he is making a responsible choice for the environment and the autoworkers in his district.
Despite Ryan's opposition, the team of environmentalist set off for Akron and Kent, hoping to get more people to call Ryan's office.