Save money and help save the planet — buy a new car.
What sounds like an automobile industry marketing mantra actually comes from the Natural Resources Defense Council, a 1.3-million member environmental organization known for zealously guarding the air, land, water and wildlife.
In a new report, "Relieving Pain at the Pump," the council recommends as a remedy for $4 a gallon gasoline that consumers check out a "bumper crop of fuel-efficient cars" now in dealer showrooms.
"Drivers can start saving money immediately by trading in their gas guzzlers for today's gas sippers," the report says, noting there are 57 domestic and foreign models for 2012 that get better than 20 miles per gallon, including 15 at more than 30 mpg.
As federally mandated fuel efficiency standards keep rising, consumers will ultimately — in 2030 — save more than $68 billion on gas and cut carbon pollution by 297 million metric tons a year, the equivalent to emissions from 76 coal-fired power plants.
Californians would realize nearly $7.3 billion in net savings, subtracting the cost of fuel-efficient technology built into new cars from the savings on gasoline, the report says.
Henry Hansel, owner of six auto dealerships in Santa Rosa and Petaluma, said he's never heard of a green group boosting his business.
"That's a big deal," he said. "I was pleasantly surprised."
Angela Haulot of Cotati checked out a 2012 Ford Fusion that gets 33 highway mpg Sunday afternoon at Hansel Ford.
"I just sold my BMW so I'm looking for something that's more fuel efficient," she said.