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Fuel Efficiency Remains Just a Talking Point

With gas prices soaring (at least until this week), SUV sales plummeting, and Toyota's announcement of plans to start building their popular hybrid Prius model in the U.S., it's a good time to be — or drive — a fuel-efficient vehicle.

So why aren't there more of them?

Historically presidents have had a lot to say — but sadly little to do — with encouraging American auto-makers to manufacture fuel-efficient cars.

In a statement made in 1975, President Gerald R. Ford declared that "the Nation needs long-term automobile fuel efficiency and emission control policies so that we can begin to build cars meeting responsible energy and environmental standards." Because of "potential health hazards" he instead pushed the extension of an emission standards deadline. Almost 20 years later President Bill Clinton announced the Clean Car Initiative, under which the government partnered with Detroit auto-makers General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler to research and develop "affordable, attractive cars that are up to three times more fuel-efficient than today's cars." The sentiment behind the announcement was good, but searching the initiative on the Web today yields no success story — only Clinton's original statement.

Still gas prices continue to rise, it has been American car manufacturers — with their overabundance of SUVs and trucks and few fuel-efficient options — that have been hardest hit. It may not be classified as "attractive," but the Prius may have the last laugh after all.

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This post is one of a series on intriguing, amusing, and memorable moments of the American presidency inspired by the American Presidency Project ( and running until the November election.