Matthew Yglesias notes the environmental policy gap between Democratic and Republican presidential contenders: "On the Republican side, we have Mike Huckabee who thinks global warming is a serious problem but doesn’t have any particular ideas about dealing with it."

It strikes me as worse than that. When I read Andy Revkin’s run-down of the weekend’s debates, this made me want to get my shrill on:

Mike Huckabee called for a billion-dollar prize for the first 100-mile-per-gallon car (a concept that might seem a bit goofy, but that has been embraced by some influential economists).

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It did indeed seem a bit goofy at first. Then I thought again. This idea goes well beyond goofy to … deeply unserious? Insulting? Inane? Consider:

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  • 100 mpg-equivalent cars already exist.
  • 100 mpg isn’t all that ambitious. A bunch of kids are planning to bring a commercially viable 200 MPGe car to market in 2009.
  • 100 mpg cars aren’t a hugely important policy goal.

So, let’s see: a climate change an energy independence plan consisting of a billion-dollar prize for technology that already exists will probably soon be supplanted, and isn’t a high priority.

Of course, this was just one throwaway line in a debate. But I’m thunderstruck by the level of policy discourse on one of the most important issues of the day. Then I remember that voters don’t actually care about this stuff, and it all sort of makes sense.