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$1 billion for a 100-mpg car? Slow down

July 05, 2006

Re "A 100-mpg car? Let's start the race," Opinion, June 30

The suggestion by Rep. Dan Lungren (R-Gold River) to award an automaker with $1 billion for building a car that gets 100 miles per gallon sounded pretty interesting on the surface. However, when he used the words "foreign oil" as the reason for the award, the alarm bells went off. Why? Because, although Republicans do want to rid the U.S. of dependency on foreign oil as much as Democrats, what they really want to do is drill for American oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and along California's pristine coastline.

Developing automobiles that get 100 mpg is a lofty and laudable goal. But there remains the real possibility that this is just another bit of wordsmithing from Karl Rove. Remember the myth of "compassionate conservatism"? When members of the GOP start to sound like environmentalists, sound the alarm.

DAVID OHMAN

Irvine

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Lungren's proposal to offer a prize for a car that can reach 100 mpg is laudable, but it may run afoul of international trade rules. The prize would constitute a subsidy for U.S. automakers, as European producers are already in the market with cars of similarly low consumption. Instead of reinventing the wheel, it would be useful if Americans could simply look beyond their borders and stop assuming that everybody else in the world is still sitting in trees.

RONALD VOPEL

Brussels

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There is already viable technology for a 100-mpg car: the pluggable hybrid. Lungren need only visit the website calcars.org to see it. The real question is: Why is there no political will to promote this technology? As reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein were once advised: Follow the money. Big Oil makes plenty from low-gas-mileage vehicles, as does Detroit, and government makes plenty from fuel taxes and sales taxes. The idea of drivers not visiting a gas station every few days must be deeply disturbing to all three. Ford Motor Co.'s announcement in the last few days that it was stepping back from hybrid technology is indicative of this.

Lungren's laughable idea of a competition is smoke attempting to disguise a giveaway to Detroit, not a serious attempt to promote American security through a rational energy policy.

GAIL LORD

Santa Ana

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