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'Jesus,' government eye SUVs
Religious, environmental coalition begins campaign as government considers new rules.
November 20, 2002: 4:03 PM EST

RALEIGH, N.C. (CNN) - Church and state are getting involved in the gas-guzzling SUV debate.

A coalition of religious and environmental groups is launching a "What Would Jesus Drive?" campaign Wednesday, hoping to get people to switch to more fuel-efficient cars.

The move comes as the Bush administration reportedly considers a proposal to increase fuel efficiency standards for SUVs and light trucks. According to the Wall Street Journal, the proposal, currently at an early draft stage, is likely to draw intense opposition from car manufacturers.

The religious and environmental campaign is likely to draw more immediate attention, however. The group plans a news conference Wednesday in Detroit. Members hope to meet with the Big Three automakers and the United Auto Workers union. Car buyers in four states will soon hear an advertised appeal to their environmental conscience: "What would Jesus drive?''

It's a joint effort of the National Council of Churches and the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life. The group is planning television advertising in North Carolina, Iowa, Indiana and Missouri to urge consumers to park their sport/utility vehicles -- claiming that Jesus would prefer a cleaner vehicle.

Meanwhile, top regulatory officials at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are considering a proposal to increase fuel efficiency standards by half a mile per gallon a year, starting in 2005. The overall increase would add up to 1.5 miles a gallon by 2007, according to the Journal.

Bush administration officials, contending with foreign oil dependency issues, are believed to be somewhat sympathetic to the proposal, although industry concerns about the new standards may sway the final requirement.  Top of page

-- Associated Press contributed to this story.

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