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Candidate Profile: Barack Obama

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Candidate Profile: Barack Obama

Bill Crittenden
The Crittenden Automotive Library
March 16, 2007

It seems a bit early to get a Presidential campaign rolling, but they've been at it for months already this election cycle.  Thanks to some very informative websites, we can take a look at the how the candidates would affect how we drive.  This is just informational, not in any way an endorsement of a candidate.

Barack Obama's campaign website is fairly easy to navigate, and puts a great deal of information under the heading, "Meeting America's Energy Needs."  According to his website, Barack Obama is a major supporter of alternative fuels, and also supports fuel economy increases.

He supports gradually raising the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, so that our vehicles' fuel mileage increases without an all-at-once shock to the auto industry such as the one in the early 1970's over emissions.  A 4% annual increase in fuel economy is the target.

Mr. Obama supports tax credits for fuel stations that install E-85 ethanol pumps, which would help increase the availability of the (mostly) renewable fuel.  The credit would cover 30% of the cost of converting an existing pump to E-85.  Also, in another bill, oil companies that made $1 billion in profit in the first quarter of 2006 would be required to spend 1% of those profits installing E-85 pumps.  These ideas, if enacted, may help fill a gap in the supply chain between ethanol producers and owners of flexible-fuel vehicles.  I personally owned a Flex-Fuel Chevrolet pickup truck, but as the nearest ethanol pump was in the next county, I never used the fuel.

Along with supporting ethanol, Barack Obama has introduced a bill requiring domestic production of "alternative diesels" (such as biodiesel), a production target of 2 billion gallons by 2015.

He also had a hand in launching a General Accountability Office investigation (due to be completed in April) into whether or not oil companies are fighting the installation of alternative fuel pumps.

While all those ideas would certainly help us reduce our dependence on oil, it's his hybrid vehicle deal that's the most creative.  He intends to encourage domestic automakers to produce hybrids by helping them with the costs of their retirees' healthcare.  Retiree costs are a major burden on the Detroit automakers, such a burden that the added costs put them at a distinct disadvantage to other manufacturers.  In exchange for helping lift this burden, the automakers would invest 50% of the money saved into hybrid technology.

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