Jul 18, 2008 (From the CalCars-News archive)
It's official: look at the headline and the story, which includes a specific matchup of the candidates' positions on PHEV policy! (See our previous reports in CalCars-News on this subject.) Also, it looks like there may be a second race with each candidate distancing himself from blind support of corn ethanol (see CBS report below).
GM's Volt Becomes Centerpiece in Presidential Debate on Energy
By Lorraine Woellert and Jeff Green
July 18 (Bloomberg) -- General Motors Corp.'s plug-in electric car, the Chevrolet Volt, is becoming a must-have prop for the U.S. presidential candidates as they try to appeal to workers in contested states such as Michigan and Ohio and show their commitment to weaning the country off of imported oil.
Stopping at a technical center run by the largest U.S. automaker in Warren, Michigan, Republican John McCain today called the Volt an illustration of how the U.S. can cope with rising crude oil prices and the decline of manufacturing jobs.
``The eyes of the world are now on the Volt,'' McCain said at a meeting with autoworkers after sitting in the vehicle and getting a briefing on the car's technology from GM Chief Executive Officer Rick Wagoner and Vice Chairman Bob Lutz. ``It's the future of America and the world.''
The Arizona senator and his Democratic rival, Senator Barack Obama of Illinois, are holding up GM -- beset by a collapse of its U.S. sales and three years of losses -- as a model of American ingenuity.
McCain said the Volt, which GM aims to roll off assembly lines by 2010, demonstrates how U.S. automakers can move smartly and quickly away from fossil fuels without shedding manufacturing jobs.
``I've said the old automotive jobs aren't coming back,'' McCain said yesterday. ``But I also said in the same sentence that the Big Three would lead in green technologies and innovation and the new technologies that would restore the life and vitality of the automotive industry in America. And General Motors is doing exactly that by developing the Volt.''
While the candidates' differences over whether to allow more oil drilling off the U.S. coast has dominated the debate, on the stump they both are giving prominence to their plans to boost alternative energy development and foster technology to cut emissions.
McCain, 71, and Obama, 46, come at the issue from different directions. McCain wants to boost innovation by offering purchasers of zero carbon-emission cars a $5,000 tax credit. A graduated tax credit would apply to purchases of lower emission cars such as the Volt.
He would establish a $300 million prize for development of new battery technology for vehicles. He also wants to encourage construction of 100 new nuclear plants and invest government money in development of clean-burning coal.
Obama has pledged $150 billion in federal spending to create 5 million ``green collar'' jobs to cut pollution and energy use, in part by promoting the use of renewable fuels and retooling factories.
McCain adviser Jim Woolsey said both proposals share the same goal, ``an end-run around oil dependency.''
The plans have another common target: protecting American manufacturing jobs. Touting clean and green technology is a way for candidates to resonate in competitive states such as Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, where factory workers are a substantial voting bloc.
Both candidates say that so-called green jobs can't be outsourced.
``Obama is proposing a very, very serious program for reinvestment in a manufacturing economy and rebuilding our manufacturing heartland is the center of that,'' said Bracken Hendricks, an Obama adviser and a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a Washington-based policy research institution.
GM has been courting both candidates. Wagoner spent two hours with Obama at an innovation summit June 26 in Pittsburgh talking about how the government could help GM in the race to replace traditional gasoline cars.
Wagoner wants government funding for research on batteries for electric cars and hybrids to compete with similar funding for automakers in Japan and Korea, where battery technology is a national priority, GM spokesman Greg Martin said.
The automaker also wants more government support for biofuels, such as ethanol from corn or other plants, Martin said. GM has said about half of its models will be able to use both an ethanol-mix or gasoline by 2012. The automaker wants government support for new infrastructure.
Wagoner and Obama also discussed the need for tax incentives and other government support for consumers to help them buy these vehicles and offset the higher cost for the new technology, he said. GM is making similar overtures to McCain, Martin said.
``When you look at the Chevy Volt, in one product you have so many different technologies that show how an American corporation can leapfrog the competition,'' Martin said. ``The Volt makes a pretty good single platform for showing support for that ingenuity.''
The Volt is part of GM's plan to combine fuel-efficient gasoline and biofuel engines, hybrid-electric models, fuel cells and other technology to cut fuel use and narrow a technology gap with Toyota Motor Corp.
GM said June 3 it is closing four truck plants and adding cars as $4-a-gallon gasoline forces consumers into more fuel- efficient vehicles.
The Volt is scheduled to hit showrooms by November 2010. GM will produce about 10,000 Volts in its first full year and increase production to 60,000 annually after that, Lutz said June 17.
MCCAIN CRITICIZES ETHANOL SUBSIDIES
From the Road column July 18, 2008, 11:32 AM
McCain's Tough Talk to Auto Workers
From CBS News' John Bentley
(WARREN, MICH.) John McCain gave an abbreviated version of his economy speech tailored to Detroit – singing the praises of General Motors development of the Chevrolet Volt, an electric-gas hybrid that GM hopes to bring on the market in 2010. But he also gave some answers that the employees here at this town hall meeting held at GM headquarters probably didn’t want to hear on the issues of ethanol and the future of automakers.
He also said he did not support ethanol subsidies, which has been a sore spot among automakers, who have invested in cars that run on ethanol.
“Most experts today will say because we subsidized ethanol, it has distorted the market and now contributed to inflationary pressure in our country, which are very, very dangerous, to say the least,” McCain said.
“So I’m all for encouragement and whatever is necessary to make sure every vehicle is flex fuel, that every gas station has a pump that says E-85 on it, and it’s clear to me that ethanol, corn based as well as sugarcane based, as well as bio-fuels, as well as other alternative sources of energy that come onto the market be made available and I would devote a lot of my efforts in that direction.”