The Hybrid Car Candidate: Barack Obama

Presidential candidate Barack Obama spoke at a General Motors plant in Janesville, Wisconsin on Wednesday, pledging to simultaneously support auto workers and a national transition to fuel efficient technologies, such as hybrid cars. Obama told the group of autoworkers, “If our government is there to support you and give you the assistance you need to re-tool and make this transition, this plant will be here for another 100 years.”

Obama’s speech came at the heels of GM’s announcement of a $38.7 million loss for 2007 and buyout and early retirement offers to all of its hourly workers. “I know how hard your governor has fought to keep jobs in this plant” said Obama. “But I also know how much progress you’ve made—how many hybrids and fuel-efficient vehicles you’re churning out.” American automakers have recently increased their hybrid offerings, but the market is still dominated by Toyota and other foreign competitors.

Obama said as president he would spend billions of dollars to create so-called “green collar” jobs to develop more environmentally friendly energy sources. “My energy plan will invest $150 billion over ten years to establish a green energy sector that will create up to 5 million new jobs over the next two decades—jobs that pay well and can’t be outsourced. We’ll also provide funding to help manufacturers convert to green technology and help workers learn the skills they need for these jobs.”

A Consistent Message On Hybrids and Jobs

This proposal is not the first time that Obama drew connections between domestic auto-industry jobs and green vehicle technologies. In Nov. 2006, Obama and Jay Inslee (D-Wa.) introduced ” The Healthcare for Hybrids Act.” The bill proposed that up to 10 percent of the retiree health care costs for a qualifying manufacturer be paid by federal financial assistance—that is, if the carmaker invests at least 50 percent of the those savings into hybrid and alternative fuel vehicles, including the retooling of assembly lines and the retraining of workers.

At the time, Walter McManus, an auto economist with the University of Michigan, said, “Senator Obama and Congressmen Inslee have recognized these companies are circling the drain, and with them our national economy and energy security. Their stroke of genius is in connecting the dots: Decreasing oil consumption is clearly a top national priority but it will not happen without a national investment.”

“SUVS Become Hybrids”

In Wisconsin on Wednesday, Obama drew a comparison between hybrid production and shifts to wartime manufacturing after the Great Depression. “Prosperity hasn’t always come easily. The plant shut down for a period during the height of the Depression, and major shifts in production have been required to meet the changing times,” he said. “Tractors became automobiles. Automobiles became artillery shells. SUVs are becoming hybrids as we speak, and the cost of transition has always been greatest for the workers and their families.”

In terms of his personal ride, in July 2007, Barack Obama traded in his Chrysler 300C, an eight-cylinder 5.7-liter sedan which gets 15 miles per gallon in the city—for a Ford Escape Hybrid, the first gas-electric vehicle produced by an American carmaker. The Escape Hybrid achieves 34 mpg in the city.

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  • Joe

    He’s crazy if he thinks GM is really trying. He’s even crazier if he
    things we should subsidize GM with taxpayer dollars.

    He used to drive a Hemi powered Chrysler V-8, that was BEFORE he was trying to get your vote. However, when it became a political problem, only then did he buy a hybrid Ford Escape. He’s just cowtowing to perceived interests. A true politician!

  • Anonymous

    I used to drive a sports sedan that got 21 mpg, now I love hybrids… people are allowed to see benefits and change. That being said, do you think he drives the escape or that he would be driving the 300? He doesn’t because he gets driven around by the secret service. All the dems bought escape hybrids… better than the suburban toting republicans any day

  • Armand

    What’s really sad is they want to spend only $150B on new technologies that will save our stupid sorry asses BUT we spend over a $1 TRILLION on the war?

    It’s no wonder humans are so f’ked.

    We get what we deserve.

  • GR

    When the 300C first came out I thought about getting that car myself. Now, however, I would only drive that car if it were either a hybrid or just much more more fuel efficient all around. Like it was stated before, people are allowed to change their opinions once they become more aware of the facts of global warming.

    Good job to Barack and Jay for coming up with great legislation.

    Good job to Barack and Hillary (she drives a Mariner Hybrid) for switching to more fuel efficient vehicles.

    Thanks for the article.

  • Andy

    Oh great. The bloated management of GM rescued by the clever nimble federal government with it’s 700 member board of directors? Just shoot me.

    If someone in government wants to see changes in the private sector, stop giving the megacorps free funding and instead legislate such that green technologies are profitable… carbon tax, gas tax, gas guzzler tax, etc.

    Corporate “subsidies” amount to penalizing people for earning money (income tax) in order to reward companies for the fact they don’t produce green vehicles, and thereby expecting that they will start. Baloney.

  • Obama Fan

    I love that he drives a hybrid — I don’t care when he got one. Good point about the Secret Service driving him around — perhaps when he gets to the office, he’ll have the White House change all their cars.

    Have you guys read his book? I just got it, looking forward to reading it. I did check out his profile on the new social networking site he just joined,

    I love that he joins fledgling sites for a good cause, too!

  • StefanU

    Maybe, if GM haven’t been giving into the unions so much maybe it would not be having a $38 million deficit and be getting subsidies if Obama becomes president. Therefore, all that money spent into the unions would be going to alternative fuels.

    “My energy plan will invest $150 billion over ten years to establish a green energy sector that will create up to 5 million new jobs over the next two decades—jobs that pay well and can’t be outsourced.”-Obama

    I hope he can do that…with that much precision. I’m skeptical about my tax money being wasted into the unions and other frivolous things.

    Anyway, good job, Obama, for trading your Chrysler 300 for a hybrid. I just like to see Al Gore trade in his mansions for a smaller home.

  • HM

    When you think how much is dumped into the airline companies, what’s a little more to the auto companies? At this point, the most important thing is to become a world leader in green technologies and keep our jobs.

  • sean

    Where is Hillary Clinton?

  • ex-EV1 driver

    Although many want to tie the green vehicle issue to political parties, this isn’t necessarily the case:
    a few examples of Republican led green vehicle initiatives:

    1. California Republican Governor, Pete Wilson pushed for and signed the ZEV mandate in California that led directly to the production of the GM EV1 and S10EV, Toyota’s RAV4EV, Honda’s EVplus, Nissan’s Altra, Ford’s RangerEV, and Chrysler’s Epic Minivan. It was Grey Davis, his Democrat successor who’s administration administered the destruction of the ZEV mandate and the subsequent Killing of essentially all of these Electric Cars.

    2. The only time I’ve seen more than 1 production EV together east of the Rocky Mountains was in front of the Bush (yes, George W) White House, being driven by the Capital Police.

    3. Arnold Schwarzenneger, Republican Governor is an early buyer of a Tesla Roadster, the California built super car that is being built to fund the company to build affordable, sustainable electric vehicles for the masses. This may offset the damage done by his pushing the Hummer into the consumer market.

    I urge people who believe that their government will save us to be very vigilant about who they’re voting for. All administrations have shown themselves to be vulnerable to infiltration by big money with an agenda. At least by choosing green vehicles, these candidates are demonstrating that they understand they must do something, whether they actually do anything or not. We must continue to communicate to whomever ascends to the White House next year that we insist on transitioning our country’s transportation fleet to something that is sustainable, as soon as we can.

  • David

    Joe, it’s square headed, non-constructive thinking like that which will get us nowhere. What do you have to loose anyway? NOTHING. Were in a hole because of Republican Ego’s like yours.

  • Another Anonymous

    Late is better than never.
    If the USA used just a small percentage of the money spent on recent wars to invest in advanced technology instead, we should all have been driving much more sustainable vehicles.
    As the leader of the free world (now the whole world), the USA should show more leadership.
    My hat off to Toyota and Honda for pioneering the hybrids. Everyone knows that at the beginning they sold them at a loss.
    Someone has to start…

  • Gerald Shields

    A lot of what people are saying here maybe true, but kudos to Obama for at least talking about a transition to more fuel efficient vehicles . . . and Obama 08! 😉

  • Craig

    I saw this AM that Bob Lutz, the Chairman of GM recently said that Global Warming is a “Crock of Sh*t”. And we’re going to hand this guy a ton of money (literally it’ll be a lot more than a ton) and ask him to solve our environmental problems? They need to support all these startups that are trying to start a whole new eco frendly vehicle industry, such as Tesla and Venture Vehicles.

  • Gandalf

    I own a hybrid and support Barrack Obama.

    He is our best hope to get this country moving and our democracy back.

  • Lans

    What was that about special interest and change?

    For that kind of investment, I would expect concessions by GM to increase CAFE and to apply hybrid technology to either entire line up 2012 (or sooner). GM has been planning hybrid SUVs all along? What else are we getting with those tax dollars?

    Obama didn’t switch until July 2007… he suddenly decided to change when he wanted to run for higher office.

    Yeah, I support Hillary and would like to see real change put into action instead of all the same old promise of change.

  • Sam Ray

    Barrack Hussein Obama is a bag of hot air. He is nothing more than a used car or snake oil salesman and perhaps a used hybrid car salesman. For him the bottom line is “by any means necessary”.

  • Kevin

    Let’s get one thing straight. I will never vote for this man! My vehicle purchasing preferences are not dictated by a political candidate and they never will be!

  • Anonymous

    There was actually a study done, published maybe six months ago, in which it was found that more republicans drive hybrids than democrats. I don’t remember where it was reported, but it might have been right here.

  • David

    A bag of hot air huh? haha… What’s Bush, and who is he “endorsing”? More war. There are two things that a president does. Possesses the power to motivate the country, and call attention to specific important issues to decipher which ones are most important. We already know that we can’t stop “TERROR” ohhhh NOOOOO terror… you know what that’s short for? Lets close up our minds and our borders and live like a hermit.

    It’s like Obama said, looking back and festering on issues like a bipolar person who can’t get over a grudge. Hillary is way too fake for me, and we’ve already chosen two bushes and look at the outcome. Let’s NOT choose two Clinton’s because bill is going to try to steal the podium from her more and more each day, and I don’t think this country needs a ego battle between these two people, because uhhh Maybe this time Hillary will get the blow job then go through that stupid crap again. Also, bashing other candidates is not good ethics if you ask me. Hill has done it more than enough times to get her assass-kicked. I also don’t want someone who’s fake like that.

  • Neil

    I don’t know that it is appropriate to make environmentalism any more political than it has already become. The issue of taking care of the planet needs to remain above politics, not get dragged down in it. I am not happy with for posting this simplistic and amatuerish article.

    We have some good news though – which is that Barack, Hillary and John all have voiced support for environmental issues, albeit it to varying degrees. Whatever happens should be an improvement over the status quo. Without being an expert in politics, I know John has sponsored bills to help the environment and Hillary and Barack have voted for bills to support the environment.

    Going forward we can only hope that we are not subjected by Barack, Hillary, or John to hot-air, political maneuvering or flip-flopping, respectively.

    As far as GM goes, they are pathetic. They are just starting to warm up to green technology so they can tap into the bloodline of government handouts that will surely be coming – either in the name of improving the domestic economy or helping the environment. I am personally hoping that venture capitalists in California skunk Detroit with their electric and hybrid car developments.

  • uktiger

    Thank you for taking the lead here Obama is a candidate that offers us an alternative to more of the same.. Anybody who doesn’t think we need a domestic auto manufacturing industry needs to have their head examined.

  • ASH

    We’re about to leave the false goal of a hydrogen economy (How much time and $ did that waste?) and bio-fuels that are a net loss when external costs are considered. Our VP’s threat of coal plants thankfully never jelled. Hybrids are a good start in so many ways. We need to be at the cutting edge of green technology in as many ways that make economic sense, now. We’re a 2 hybrid family and I’d like to trade one in for an American made electric only town car soon.

  • Neil 2

    As an FYI, check out John McCain was endorsed months ago as the most environmentally conscious Republican candidate based not on rhetoric but solely on voting record.

  • Karl

    Another reason to support Obama in the race!

  • Anonymous

    Obama told people in Detroit and anywhere he went they lost thier job because NAFTA. That is lied to them.Please read my FW:Could 60% of American Voters
    Be Wrong?
    by Alexander Green, Chairman, Investment U
    Investment Director, The Oxford Club

    A few weeks ago, I came across an astonishing fact. A Wall Street Journal-NBC News poll found that 60% of voters believe “foreign trade has been bad for the U.S. economy.”

    Some of these folks might benefit from a class in Economics 101 before they pull the lever this November.

    Don’t get me wrong. I understand that free trade hurts some jobs – and some industries. (Perhaps Detroit most of all.) But free trade has been a big net winner for the U.S. economy as a whole.

    Let’s start by defining what free trade is. Free trade is nothing but a mutual agreement to drop tariffs and non-tariff barriers on goods sold in one another’s countries. As such, America generally benefits.

    Why? Because while all countries have trade restrictions, foreign tariffs are generally higher than U.S. tariffs. Removing them is a big plus for American exporters.

    Free trade also boosts U.S. economic growth. For example, in the 13 years since NAFTA was passed, America’s economy has added 26.2 million net new jobs, and gross domestic product has doubled to more than $13 trillion.

    Some people blame NAFTA for our illegal immigration problem with Mexico. Illegal immigration is indeed a serious problem. But NAFTA is not the culprit.

    Since the passage of NAFTA in 1994, Mexico’s economy has quadrupled – 600,000 new jobs were added in the last year alone. Average Mexican wages have risen from $2,000 in 1994 to more than $7,000 today.

    Free trade boosts economic growth, job creation and income. It gives people a reason not to emigrate. People are more likely to emigrate when they have no economic prospects at home.

    Others will argue that free trade has hurt America’s manufacturing base. And, indeed, 3.3 million manufacturing jobs have been lost over the past 10 years. But, over the same period, 11 million new service jobs have sprung up.

    I realize this is small consolation if you work in manufacturing. However, most free-trade pacts ensure that displaced workers get retrained for higher-paying work.

    Still not convinced that foreign trade is a good thing? Take a look at history before voting for a representative promising protectionist legislation.

    How Free Markets Work

    During the Great Depression, unemployment in the United States hit a high of 25%. One of the many foolish steps the federal government took to “save” American jobs was to create international trade restrictions.

    Big mistake. Predictably, other countries retaliated, blocking the import of American goods. The net result? World trade in 1933 was only one-third of what it was in 1929, making everybody poorer.

    The harsh truth is that free markets cause economic dislocation. This is not due to foreign trade alone, of course. The automobile industry destroyed jobs for people who made saddles, carriages and horseshoes. The advent of personal computers sent typewriter manufacturers into bankruptcy.

    Some people lost. Most of us gained. That’s how free markets work.

    Incidentally, Americans who are clamoring for trade barriers against foreign goods right now are choosing a particularly bad moment. The U.S. economy is teetering on recession, or perhaps is already in one.

    Meanwhile, Latin America is booming. So are parts of Eastern Europe. And China and India will be engines of world growth for decades to come.

    We need these new emerging markets to buy American goods. If they were to retaliate against new protectionist measures, it could hurt us a lot more than them.

    Again, I’m not arguing that some U.S. workers aren’t on the losing end of free trade. (I understand completely, for example, why Big Labor is opposed to free markets.) But the vast majority of us are winners.

    If you care about the health of the U.S. economy – and the value of your investment portfolio – you should support foreign trade, not oppose it.

  • Charles

    i think its awesome that he is going green, however i am tired of people saying if we took the money were spending on the war and put it towards alternative fuel ect… life would be better… thats a crock, that “1 trillion” wouldnt exist if not for the war, we are no better or worse off than we were before the war started, so to sum it up. if the war was not going on the 1 trillion spent on it would have never existed so give that up.

  • Heather

    He switched cars in Mid 2007? Was this to help the enviroment or to help his bid for the presidental nomination?

    Seems he was not so worried about Global Warming while he was driving his 8 cylinder!

  • Anonymous

    hybrid cars are vedy nice. i am the foreign. i like the america. no elephants. !viva la no elephants! i like vedy much you mccain. this elctronic viewer is vedy nice. !viva la electronic viewer!nicee.

  • Paige

    i think that anonymous’ messege was odd

    report him!

  • Basil Dimitropoulos

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    The answer to OPEC is the electric vehicles at

    What we need is an International Public Prosecutor Intervention.

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    Basil Dimitropoulos
    Electrical Engineer
    104 – 106 Kremou Street, Kallithea, Athens 176-76 GREECE
    TEL: +30-210-9590530

  • Guest

    I thought people were complaining that Americans didn’t support the american Car Manufactuerers enough. Now that obama is attempting to do something remeniscent of that, we’re still complaining.
    Make up your minds, people.

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