Muckraker: Grist on Politics

Today, GOP presidential contender John McCain visited the General Motors Technical Center in Warren, Mich., where GM is developing the Chevy Volt, and used the visit to talk up his plan for the automotive sector.

In the same speech, he argued that states should be able to determine their own fuel efficiency standards. California and 16 other states have been pushing for a waiver to allow them to establish their own, tougher standards for cars and trucks, which the Bush administration denied them last December.

“It’s hard for me to tell states that they can’t impose whatever standards they decide to impose,” McCain said.

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The auto industry strongly opposes state-by-state regulations, preferring instead a single, national standard.

McCain also highlighted his “Clean Car Challenge” to spur the creation of zero emission cars. He pledges to “commit a $5,000 tax credit for each and every customer who buys a zero carbon emission car.” He also called for additional tax credits for other low-emissions vehicles — the lower the emissions, the higher the tax credit.

He touted his proposal to offer a $300 million prize for the development of a better, cheaper battery for plug-in hybrids and electric cars. The battery “should deliver a power source at 30 percent of the current costs.”

McCain also called for a more rapid transition to flex-fuel vehicles, though he didn’t elaborate on how to spur that transition, and the need to transition to second-generation alcohol-based fuels that don’t compete with food crops.

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Earlier this week, GM announced that they are making cuts, borrowing money, and selling assets in order to raise $15 billion to get them through the current economic slump. Their sales fell 16 percent for the first half of this year. Truck sales are down 21 percent, and car sales are down almost 9 percent.

Obama was also on the subject of the automobile industry today, sending a letter (PDF) to United Auto Workers promoting his plan to create a $150 billion fund to invest clean energy and worker training programs.

“My heart goes out to all the workers and families in Michigan and across the country who have been affected by turbulence in the auto industry over the years – including those who learned just this week of further job cuts,” wrote Obama. “You deserve a leader in the White House who not only understands the difficulties you and your families face, but who will stand up for you every single day. That’s exactly what I’ll do as your president.”