Full article here at Salon.
When I was at the Department of Energy in the 1990s, we partnered with G.M., Ford and Chrysler to speed the technological development of hybrid gasoline-electric cars, given that increased fuel efficiency and advanced hybrids vehicles were (and remain) clearly the best hope for cutting vehicle greenhouse gas emissions and ending our oil addiction. This partnership was an informal deal between the Clinton administration and the car companies. We did not pursue fuel economy standards and the car companies promised to develop a triple-efficiency car (80 miles per gallon) by 2004.
In one of the major blunders in automotive history, G.M. and Ford and Chyrsler walked away from hybrids as soon as they could when the Bush administration came in -- and after taxpayers had spent over $1 billion on the program. Ironically, the main result of our government-industry partnership (which had excluded foreign automakers) was to motivate the Japanese car companies to develop and introduce their own hybrids. . . .
Worse, in the past quarter-century, G.M. has spent millions of dollars lobbying to stop Congress from increasing fuel economy standards -- standards that might have forced them to build the kind of cars people actually want when oil prices are high. And despite the recent temporary drop in oil prices, there's little doubt we will be above $4 gasoline in a few years, headed for $6 and higher within the decade. . . .
If we are going to bail out Detroit, the deal has to be based on meeting the new fuel economy standards of 35 mpg by 2020, and meeting them increasingly with hybrids. The deal has to be for multiple plug-in hybrid car models. And most important, the deal has to include a management team that is wholly committed to that inevitable transition, a team that will not waste a penny of the taxpayer-funded bailout lobbying against the even tougher standards and regulations that will be needed to avoid the harsh consequences of global warming and peak oil. . . .