"I think Americans are actually willing to sacrifice," Edwards said Tuesday during a forum held by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. "One of the things they should be asked to do is drive more fuel efficient vehicles."
The former North Carolina senator was asked specifically if he would tell them to give up their SUVs, he said, "Yes."
Longshot candidate Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio also spoke to the group and said he had a Machinists union flag hanging outside his congressional office and that he is a strong supporter of workers.
Edwards was clearly popular with the group, several times drawing standing ovations, including once when he said weapons and equipment used by America's military needs to be made in the United States. He said now tanks and ammunition for M16 rifles are being made in other countries.
"If your tax dollars are being used to produce the products that keep America safe, that provide defense for the American people, those jobs should remain in the United States of America," Edwards said.
He also said as president he would ask residents to conserve energy and said the U.S. needs to focus on being a leader in creating alternative energy. He said he wants a national cap on carbon dioxide emissions that is lowered each year.
"We are the worst polluter on the planet. We are 4 percent of the world's population, we're putting out 25 percent of the world's greenhouse gas," Edwards said. "America's going to have to change."
Edwards was asked during his appearance how he explained the contradiction of asking Americans to sacrifice while he's living in a 28,000-square-foot (2,600-square-meter) mansion.
He said he came from nothing, worked hard all his life, has always supported workers and fought big corporations as a lawyer.
"I have no apologies whatsoever for what I've done with my life," he said to loud cheers. "My entire life has been about the same cause, which is making sure wherever you come from, whatever your family is, whatever the color of your skin, you get a real chance to do something great in this country."