AP, Nov. 13, 2002
Raleigh, North Carolina – Car buyers in four states will soon hear a religious appeal to their environmental conscience: “What would Jesus drive?”
A Pennsylvania-based environmental group is planning television advertising in North Carolina, Iowa, Indiana and Missouri to urge consumers to park their pollutive SUVs – Jesus would prefer a cleaner auto, the group contends.
“Economic issues are moral issues. There really isn’t a decision in your life that isn’t a moral choice,” said the Reverend Jim Ball, executive director of the Evangelical Environmental Network, which is sponsoring the “What Would Jesus Drive?” campaign.
The Wynnewood, Pennsylvania-based group will begin running television ads this month in eight cities to urge consumers to park their sport-utility vehicles and to buy fuel-efficient cars. The ads contend that the devout ought to consider the SUVs’ effect on the earth.
But it’s a small voice in a sea of SUVs, minivans and pickup trucks -last year they accounted for half the new vehicles sold in the United States.
The average fuel economy for all 2003 model cars and passenger trucks dropped to 33,4km per 3,7 litres, reflecting what automakers and many buyers say is a higher priority on comfort and family needs than conserving petroleum.
Automakers say they’d be happy to sell more fuel-efficient vehicles if that’s what Americans wanted to drive.
“If people would be demanding tailfins on cars, we’d be making tailfins on cars. But people aren’t demanding tailfins,” said Eron Shosteck, a spokesperson for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, a coalition of 13 companies that produce most of the country’s vehicles.
“People want power. Consumers want power.”
Ball and a network of like-minded mainline Christians and Jews hope to alter those buying habits.
Global warming and smoggy air worsened by vehicle exhausts threaten the health of humans, plants and animals worldwide, and the faithful are called to preserve God’s creation, Ball said in a telephone interview.
“We think he is Lord of our transportation choices as well as all our other choices,” said Ball, an ordained American Baptist minister.
“When you need a new car, you should buy the most fuel-efficient one that truly meets your needs.”
The Interfaith Climate and Energy Campaign plans to send mailings this month to 100 000 congregations and synagogues discussing the relationship between fuel economy and religious teachings about stewardship and justice.
The campaign is a joint effort of the National Council of Churches and the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life.
The organisations plan a November 20 news conference in Detroit, where they have requested meetings with executives from the Big Three automakers and the United Auto Workers’ union, campaign director Douglas Grace said.
The groups plan to frame their arguments in moral – as well as economic, terms by promoting hybrid and fuel-cell powered vehicles, as well as other fuel-saving technologies.
Hybrids run on both petrol and electricity, and use less fuel than traditional engines. Fuel cells, a technology developed to power space vehicles, makes energy from a chemical reaction with no harmful emissions.
“We’re trying to show the technology is there, that consumers are interested in it, and they’re interested in buying American,” Grace said.
The Big Three – Ford Motor, General Motors and DaimlerChrysler – plan to mass market SUVs and pickups with hybrid technology starting next year. Toyota and Honda began selling a limited number of hybrid cars this year. – Sapa-AP
For more information visit the What Would Jesus Drive campaign online