You know you're in the big time when you have your very own lobbying group in Washington, and American hybrid car owners took that step Thursday, with the unveiling of a new group called "Hybrid Owners of America."
Speaking at a press conference, a spokesperson for the lobby group said, "Hybrid Owners of America will strive to be a true voice for owners of gas-electric hybrid cars and other highly fuel-efficient vehicles... HOA will track and defend existing hybrid purchase incentives as well as advocating for new incentive arrangements."

HOA is the brainchild of the Civil Society Institute, which also sponsors 40mpg.org (tagline: "save money, rescue the environment, secure America: 40 mpg").

The full CSI press release for the HOA launch, setting out the group's five point agenda, is after the jump, and you can listen to the launch press conference here. The hybridownersofamerica.org website (dark at this writing) is slated to go live Thursday.

Meanwhile over at the polar-opposite SUV Owners of America website, Thursday's blog posting is aptly titled "Is a hybrid car worth the gas savings?"

As a point of comparison, there are about 500,000 hybrids in the U.S., and about 31.5 million SUVs.

[Sources: The Detroit News, Civil Society Institute, SUVOA]
Press Release:

HYBRID OWNERS OF AMERICA LAUNCHED TO ORGANIZE HALF A MILLION U.S. GAS/ELECTRIC VEHICLE OWNERS, ENCOURAGE "HYBRID FRIENDLY" FEDERAL AND STATE POLICIES

Lifting of Federal Tax Cap on Hybrids Urged, Along With New Federal Incentives For Plug-in Hybrid Conversions and Employers Promoting Hybrid Purchases to Reduce Global Warming.

WASHINGTON, D.C.//August 17, 2006//A new and 100-percent independent organization – the Hybrid Owners of America (http://www.hybridownersofamerica.org) – is being launched today to organize and advocate for the interests of the roughly 500,000 Americans who are saving money on gas, reducing America's dependence on foreign oil, and reducing global warming pollution by driving hybrid cars and other gas/electric vehicles.

In addition to tracking federal, state, local and private sector incentives to keep hybrid car owners armed with the latest information, HOA is encouraging hybrid vehicle drivers to get involved by urging Congress and the White House to embrace a five-point "hybrid friendly" agenda: lifting the current cap on the federal tax break for hybrid purchases; creating a new federal tax incentive for those who undertake a plug-in hybrid conversion; promoting a new federal tax break for corporations that provide direct incentives to employees who buy hybrids; rewarding U.S. automakers that undertake more hybrid research and production with assistance in dealing with health care and other high-cost issues; and conversion of 30 percent of the federal car and truck fleet over three years to hybrids.

Hybrid Owners of America Project Director Scott Stapf said: "Everybody wins when there are more hybrid vehicles on the road. The bottom line is that hybrid vehicle purchases should be encouraged because they empower typical Americans with a direct way to reduce our nation's addiction to Middle Eastern oil, save money at the gas pump and cut global warming pollution. By working together, hybrid owners can protect their own interests while also serving the greater good promoting U.S. national security and protecting the environment."

Civil Society Institute President and Founder Pam Solo said: "The benefits for Americans of promoting greater fuel efficiency through more hybrid auto purchases are clear: We can reduce dependence on Middle Eastern oil, making us more secure; we can lower the carbon emissions into the atmosphere that contribute to global warming; and we can put America's technology community to work on these important problems, creating jobs, ensuring that the U.S. leads in the development and sale of new technologies."

The Hybrid Owners of America Web site allows current and potential hybrid vehicle owners to urge Congress and the White House to encourage hybrid vehicle purchases and production through the current five-step plan:

1. Broaden the federal tax credit for hybrid vehicle purchases so that more vehicle types are eligible for the credit faster and so that popular hybrid credits do not "fade out" so quickly. The current federal tax cap on the hybrid tax break is arbitrary, confusing and will not work to promote the maximum number of hybrid purchases.

2. Create a new and additional tax incentive that provides further assistance to individuals who convert existing hybrids into plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) in order to further increase fuel efficiency and decrease oil consumption and pollution output. Americans can save additional money, further reduce their consumption of foreign oil and further trim their personal global warming pollution by converting hybrid cars to plug-in electric power.

3. Provide tax and other incentives to businesses that help employees to buy hybrids, particularly when such inducements are tied to corporate strategies to mitigate global warming pollution. Dozens of leading U.S. companies, including Google, Bank of America and Timberland, already reward consumers who buy hybrids. The federal government should encourage this practice through tax policy with a focus on large and small corporations that adopt such "hybrid friendly" policy as part of company-wide strategies to reduce their carbon footprint.

4. Provide U.S. automakers that commit to more hybrid vehicle research and production with major encouragement to do so, including aid with health care and other steep costs that make it tougher for American car companies to be competitive in today's global marketplace. The federal government has a long history of using tax law to encourage research and investment that is beneficial to the U.S. economy, including the creation of new jobs and the preservation of existing jobs. Detroit should be encouraged to boost its focus on hybrids as a way of meeting growing consumer demand and also competing more effectively in the global marketplace.

5. Set a target of switching over federal vehicle fleet purchases to hybrids of 10 percent for 2007, 20 percent for 2008 and 30 percent for 2009. According to the Federal Highway Administration, there are currently more than 109,000 cars and 384,964 pick-ups and other trucks in the federal vehicle fleet. A three-year target adding up to 30 percent for conversion to hybrids would put another 150,000 hybrids on the road – saving taxpayers money on fuel costs and supporting sales of U.S.-made hybrids.

With one million hybrids on America's roads -- about twice the current level -- the nation could save one million gallons of gasoline a day, assuming a 40-mile commute with hybrid fuel efficiency of 40 miles per gallon (as opposed to fuel efficiency of 20 miles per gallon).

According to 40mpg.org, a hybrid vehicle that gets 50 miles per gallon on average would save a consumer $681.46 a year over the per-vehicle average of 11,000 miles traveled in the United States at the current passenger vehicle average of 24.6 miles per gallon. Just as significantly, the hybrid vehicle will generate about 7,500 pounds less global warming pollution than the average passenger car – a reduction of up to 80-85 percent in the vehicle emissions linked to climate change.

As of July 2006, there were about 550,000 hybrid vehicles on the road in the United States. The number of hybrids sold to Americans has roughly doubled every year since 1999. The 200,000 hybrids sold in 2005 accounted for only 1.2 percent of the 17 million vehicles driven off auto dealer lots in that year.

ABOUT SPONSORING GROUPS:

The Hybrid Owners of America is a project of the Civil Society Institute and 40mpg.org. The nonprofit and nonpartisan Civil Society Institute is a Newton, MA.-based think tank that serves as a catalyst for change by creating problem-solving interactions among people, and between communities, government and business that can help to improve society. CSI has conducted more than half a dozen major surveys since 2003 on energy issues, including global warming, renewable energy and vehicle fuel-efficiency standards. CSI has no direct or indirect ties whatsoever to hybrid automakers, hybrid technology designers or manufacturers, or any other auto-related companies or other similar companies or trade groups. CSI is the parent organization of 40mpg.org (http://www.40mpg.org). You can find the Civil Society Institute on the Web at http://www.civilsocietyinstitute.org.


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