First there were the SUV owners groups in the US, now the pendulum has swung the other way with a "new and 100% independent" group called the Hybrid Owners of America launched this week "to organise and advocate for the interests of the roughly 500,000 Americans who are saving money on gas, reducing America's dependence on foreign oil, and reducing global warming pollution by driving hybrid cars and other gas/electric vehicles".

The new group tracks federal, state, local and private sector incentives and encourages hybrid vehicle drivers to get involved by urging Congress and the White House to embrace a five-point "hybrid friendly" agenda: lifting the current cap on the federal tax break for hybrid purchases; creating a new federal tax incentive for those who undertake a plug-in hybrid conversion; promoting a new federal tax break for corporations that provide direct incentives to employees who buy hybrids; rewarding US automakers that undertake more hybrid research and production with assistance in dealing with health care and other high-cost issues; and conversion of 30% of the federal car and truck fleet over three years to hybrids.

Quite an agenda, then.

Hybrid Owners of America project director Scott Stapf said: "Everybody wins when there are more hybrid vehicles on the road. The bottom line is that hybrid vehicle purchases should be encouraged because they empower typical Americans with a direct way to reduce our nation's addiction to Middle Eastern oil, save money at the gas pump and cut global warming pollution. By working together, hybrid owners can protect their own interests while also serving the greater good promoting US national security and protecting the environment."

The organisation claims that, with a million hybrids on America's roads - about twice the current level - the country could save a million gallons of petol a day, assuming a 40-mile commute with hybrid fuel efficiency of 40 miles per gallon.

Citing 40mpg.org, it said that a hybrid vehicle that gets 50 miles per gallon on average would save a consumer $US681.46 a year over the per-vehicle average of 11,000 miles travelled in the United States at the current passenger vehicle average of 24.6 miles per gallon.

The hybrid vehicle will generate about 7,500 pounds less global warming pollution than the average passenger car -- a reduction of up to 80-85% in the vehicle emissions linked to climate change.

In July 2006, there were about 550,000 hybrid vehicles on the road in the United States and the number sold has doubled roughly every year since 1999. The 200,000 hybrids sold in 2005 accounted for only 1.2% of the 17m vehicles sold that year.

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