Kicking off what campaign advisors have dubbed “energy week,” Barack Obama today called for an “end to the age of oil in our time.” He backed up his trademark optimism with the most dramatic auto technology proposals of the 2008 campaign cycle. Obama said he hopes to see 1 million plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles on the road by 2015, a number far beyond the most optimistic forecasts. Obama’s vision amounts to more than wide-eyed optimism—or generalized political pandering. Details from an eight-page energy fact-sheet the campaign circulated to the media:

  • $4 billion in tax credits to American automakers to retool plants for the production of plug-in hybrid cars capable of 150 miles to the gallon.
A $7,000 tax credit for consumers who buy early model plug-in vehicles.
  • Half of all cars purchased by the federal government will be plug-in hybrids or all-electric by 2012.

The new proposals will be folded into Senator Obama’s 10-year, $150 billion energy package, which aims to eliminate American dependence on foreign oil by 2019. Obama’s vision for energy independence isn’t all green. The most widely reported headline from today’s energy speech in Lansing, Mich. was Obama’s change of heart about offshore drilling and the release of oil from the strategic energy reserves. Many environmentalists view these compromises as unnecessary and ill-advised, especially considering how much easier it will be to get congressional action on the latter two points of his plan.

Could Obama succeed in bringing about a green-tech revolution? Is it feasible to produce 1 million 150-mpg plug-in hybrids by 2015? Is the $4 billion tax credit tantamount to a corporate giveaway to Detroit automakers which have dragged their heels on hybrid technology? As is usually the case with visions of a more fuel efficient future, there’s plenty of room for both optimism and skepticism.