Speaking in Detroit, Obama tells Big Auto where to go

Presidential contender Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) took his rhetoric to Detroit yesterday, challenging the U.S. auto industry to get with the times. “The need to drastically change our energy policy is no longer a debatable proposition,” he said in a speech to the city’s Economic Club. “It is not a question of whether, but how; not a question of if, but when. For the sake of our security, our economy, our jobs, and our planet, the age of oil must end in our time.” His big talk, which got big ovations, was backed by some medium-ish proposals: an annual fuel-efficiency increase of 4 percent (similar to the Bush administration’s plan); a $3 billion incentive to help retool factories toward that goal; and assistance covering health-care costs for current and retired autoworkers. While no auto execs were present, others in the audience admired the candidate’s stance on the industry’s “unsustainable” path. Said one, “I think it took a lot of courage to come to Detroit and lay it on the line.”