AUGUSTA – If a new poll is to be believed, Mainers overwhelmingly want access to more fuel-efficient, low-pollution vehicles.

The Natural Resources Council of Maine released poll results Wednesday that show 70 percent of Mainers support the Cleaner Car Sales Goals Resolution awaiting legislative approval.

The sales goals would require automakers to ensure that 10 percent of new cars sold in Maine by 2009 would be cleaner-burning gasoline or hybrid cars.

Cars and trucks are Maine’s leading source of air pollution and greenhouse gases, the council says.

This sales rule, which the council claims would cut tailpipe pollution by 90 percent for new cars, was passed unanimously by the Board of Environmental Protection in December.

It has already been adopted in six Northeast states: New York, Massachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut, Rhode Island and New Jersey, plus California.

Of the 400 Maine residents who were surveyed, seven in 10 favored the requirement, while one-fourth didn’t. Another 4.8 percent were undecided, the council noted in a press release.

“This poll shows that Maine people want a clean environment for themselves and their children,” said the council’s energy project director, Sue Jones, in releasing the findings. “Now it is time for the Legislature to act and pass this important policy.”

The survey found support across the board for “requiring carmakers to provide 10 percent of the new cars they sell in Maine as low-polluting models by 2009,” according to the environmental advocacy group.

Twenty-seven car models already meet the standards, including the Ford Focus, Toyota Camry and Honda Accord, all-wheel-drive vehicles like the Subaru Outback, and luxury cars such as BMWs and Volvos, the council said.

The group also says the policy would help to relieve a bottleneck in delivering the least-polluting vehicles to Maine. Now, Maine car buyers wait two to 18 months for delivery of hybrid gasoline and electric-powered vehicles.

“Passage of the Cleaner Car Sales Goals Resolution will send manufacturers the strong message that they need to increase production rates for these cars,” said Jones.

The council says cleaner car sales goals will:

• Reduce air pollution that causes asthma attacks and other respiratory ailments.

• Make Maine less dependent on foreign oil and reduce the drain on the state’s economy.

• Help do Maine’s part to reduce global-warming pollution, which is already beginning to affect Maine.

• Provide carmakers with reliable indicator of the growing market for cleaner cars.

• Meet Maine’s demand for cleaner cars.

The poll questions were part of a public opinion survey conducted Jan. 24 to 29 by Strategic Marketing Services of Portland. The question, part of a survey of 400 randomly selected people statewide, was commissioned by the council.

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