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Transportation & Fuel Source Technology

Illinois Hybrid Buyers Eligible for $1,000 Rebates

To combat rising gas prices, Illinois State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias today unveiled a new statewide rebate program designed to make fuel-efficient hybrid vehicles more affordable.

Under the "Green Rewards" program, the Treasurer's Office will partner with banks and credit unions throughout the state to issue $1,000 rebates to Illinois residents who purchase a hybrid or other energy-efficient automobile.

"Hybrid cars use less gas, but they cost more upfront," Giannoulias said during a press conference at Grant Park. "Green Rewards entices Illinois residents to buy fuel-efficient, clean-burning vehicles by offering $1,000 rebates. This will help them recoup their investment faster while they save money at the pump."

Green Rewards is the first incentive program to encourage hybrid purchases in Illinois. The program offers the largest state rebate for hybrids in the nation.

Giannoulias is pledging $2 million in Green Rewards during a statewide tour in his personal hybrid vehicle. The Treasurer's Office will fund the program by depositing money at local banks and credit unions at a below-market interest rate. The money that those institutions save in interest is passed to consumers in the form of $1,000 rebates at the time of purchase.

To take advantage of the program, buyers must secure a car loan from a participating bank or credit union for a new hybrid vehicle or an eligible electric or fuel cell vehicle.

Mayor Richard M. Daley endorsed Green Rewards, saying it complements Chicago's commitment to protecting the environment.

"This is a great program that will encourage people to purchase hybrid vehicles which conserve fuel, save money and protect our environment by reducing harmful emissions," Daley said. "In Chicago we are leading by example by purchasing City vehicles and buses that are hybrids or run on alternative fuels. Purchasing these types of vehicles will go a long way to help conserve and protect our valuable natural resources and our quality of life for future generations."

Current hybrid cars can get up to 60 miles to the gallon on the highway and produce up to 80 percent less harmful pollutants and greenhouse gases than comparable gasoline cars. But they cost $1,200 to $10,000 more than their fossil fuel counterparts.

Studies show that the Ford Escape, Honda Civic, Toyota Camry and Toyota Prius all recover their price premium through fuel efficiencies after the first five years or 75,000 miles of ownership.

Fourth of July gas prices were 89 cents higher this year than two years ago. As of Friday, the price of regular unleaded gasoline in Illinois was $3.30, 25 cents more than the national average. If gas prices remain at this rate, average hybrid drivers could save $5,000 in gas by the time they drive 120,000 miles.

"For every dollar that is spent on the program, drivers will save $5 on fuel over the life of their vehicle," Giannoulias said. "That's a deal government should make every day of the week."

Jack Darin, Director of the Sierra Club's Illinois Chapter, supports the Drive Clean, Save Green campaign.

"The cars we drive in Illinois account for 26 percent of the global warming pollution we put into the atmosphere," Darin said. "By rewarding car buyers who choose a hybrid over a gas guzzler, Treasurer Giannoulias' Green Rewards program will help more Illinois drivers get into a car that is part of the solution to global warming, while saving money at the gas pump."

Giannoulias has ordered two hybrid vehicles to replace a pair of gas-only vehicles and will replace others with fuel-efficient models when their leases expire.

Hybrid and other fuel-efficient vehicles reduce harmful environmental triggers that contribute to asthma, said Harold Wimmer, President and CEO of the American Lung Association of Illinois-Greater Chicago. In 2003, approximately 20 million Americans had this chronic lung condition, which accounted for an estimated 12.8 million lost school days in children and 24.5 million lost work days in adults.

"I applaud the Treasurer's Office for encouraging Illinois residents to proactively reduce their exposure to harmful environmental triggers that contribute to asthma, such as gasoline exhaust," Wimmer said. "Hybrids are a clean air choice that will help to prevent lung disease and promote the lung health of all Americans."

Illinois State Rep. John Fritchey believes Green Rewards will pay off for Illinois residents who want to save money and reduce global warming.

"This is a great example of what can be accomplished through innovative ideas and proactive leadership," Fritchey said. "The Treasurer's investment will result in financial dividends for people wanting to drive energy-efficient vehicles, and environmental dividends for all Illinoisans now and into the future."

Green Rewards also received an endorsement from Howard Learner, Executive Director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center.

"Hybrid cars produce much less pollution and can save car buyers money over time because of high gas costs," Learner said. "The State Treasurer's program provides a helpful incentive for purchases of these cleaner cars that help solve our global warming problems through technological innovation."

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