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Actor Crusades for Fuel Efficient Cars - 2003-05-01


Hollywood actor Dennis Weaver is leading a caravan of fuel efficient cars across the United States to promote alternative fuels and to urge the country to reduce its dependence on foreign oil. The performer and his supporters will deliver petitions to Washington.

The actor-environmentalist and his wife of 50 years, driving a hybrid Toyota powered by gasoline and electricity, will lead a caravan of cars fueled by hydrogen, natural gas, ethanol and methanol, which are forms of alcohol. They call the cross-country trip the "Drive to Survive."

"Our message will be, please increase the miles per gallon on automobiles, which is a "no brainer" I mean, that's very easily done which will relieve us of our dependence on foreign oil," says Mr. Weaver.

The trip began Wednesday on the shores of the Pacific, in Santa Monica, California. Over the next two weeks, the actor and his supporters will hold nine major rallies in U.S. cities from San Francisco to Detroit and Cleveland. The educational events are cosponsored by the U.S. department of energy's "clean cities" program.

May 14, the caravan will reach Washington, D.C., to join other environmentalists in fuel-efficient cars. "They'll be coming down from Boston, and our combined efforts will make it a huge event in Washington," says Mr. Weaver.

Energy Department officials have promised to participate in the Washington rally. "And we'll be educating people," says Mr. Weaver. "We'll be hopefully inspiring them. And that's really what this is about."

The actor says government has been slow to address the problems caused by U.S. dependence on fossil fuels, including pollution. But he says officials are getting on board, especially regarding hydrogen, which they see as the fuel of the future. He notes that hydrogen-fueled cars are already being driven in the United States, and several will take part in the cross-country caravan. "Even the president said in his "state of the union" speech that he proposed $1.2 billion for the development of hydrogen fuel cell automobiles," he says. "That gave that a big boost also."

One participant in the cross-country journey runs a company with his father called Intergalactic Hydrogen. Tai Robinson designs, builds and sells internal combustion engines that run on hydrogen, and power automobiles, home heaters and even appliances. He says hydrogen technology is still expensive, and the infrastructure needed to fuel hydrogen vehicles will take some time to develop.

But he says the fuel is efficient and environmentally friendly. "The air coming out of my tailpipe is actually cleaner than the air getting sucked into the air filter, or the air that we're breathing, the ambient air out here," says Mr. Robinson. "So I'm cleaning the air as I drive down the road in my vehicle."

The petitions delivered to Congress will bear thousands of signatures urging officials to make a "declaration of energy independence," by increasing fuel efficiency, promoting alternative fuels and reducing U.S. dependence on imported oil.