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Actor/Environmentalist Dennis Weaver Promotes Fuel-Efficient Cars - 2002-10-11

The actor Dennis Weaver starred in the popular 1970s television series McCloud, playing a Western lawman who used cowboy common sense to solve crimes in New York city. Next year, he will head back East in a fuel-efficient car with a message of conservation.

Mr. Weaver's television series opened each week with an image of the lawman riding through Manhattan on horseback. Next May, he will head back to the East Coast, with many stops along the way, travelling at the head of a caravan of fuel-efficient cars. He will be carrying a petition and a message to Washington. "We really want Congress and the president to stop the importation of foreign oil, particularly Mideast oil, because we feel that as long as we are dependent upon that energy source to fuel our economy, we're vulnerable," he said.

Mr. Weaver, a long-time environmentalist, says fossil fuels pollute, and the issue of national security adds yet another reason for the United States to cut its use of oil.

He believes the solution to our energy problems is the hydrogen fuel-cell, which may one day power our cars and light our houses. "Hydrogen is the most plentiful element in the entire universe. It's clean. It's inexhaustible," said Dennis Weaver. "And when you consider the overall cost of petroleum, it is much, much cheaper."

The actor says the costs of environmental pollution push the actual cost of gasoline use much higher than its market price.

Energy expert Fereidun Fesharaki of the East-West Center in Hawaii agrees that hydrogen is the energy source of the future. He notes that petroleum reserves are being depleted. "I think that we will be making a transition to the hydrogen economy by the middle of this century," he said. "So I think that we have enough oil and gas for 100 years, but I don't think we'll be using every drop of it. The costs will begin to change as time goes by, and so we will make a shift to the hydrogen economy at a much higher cost."

Actor Dennis Weaver would like to see the transition come even sooner. Next year's caravan trip across the United States will be Mr. Weaver's second.

His first trip in 2001 was supported by sponsors that included Toyota, which makes the fuel-efficient hybrid gasoline and electric car that he now drives. Other sponsors included the carmaker BMW, a California Indian tribe and a Florida sugar company.

The next cross-country trip includes a stop at an assembly plant of the automaker Ford, which is developing a car powered by hydrogen fuel cells. "Ford Motor Company has suggested that we have our media event in Detroit at their new plant, which is designed by William McDunough, who is one of the great environmental architects in the world," he said. "And he is creating a "green" kind of building there for the manufacture of the Ford automobile. So that will be a double whammy in Detroit."

Like Ford, other major carmakers are developing hydrogen-powered vehicles, and the oil companies BP, Shell and ExxonMobil have hydrogen fuel subsidiaries.

Mr. Weaver's environmental effort has the backing of many colleagues in Hollywood, such as the actor Tom Hanks. Supporters on the East Coast include the environmental attorney Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

Mr. Weaver hopes the gasoline-powered car will eventually go the way of the horse, his means of transportation in his role as Western lawman Sam McCloud.