Obama Criticizes Automakers on Fuel Economy
DETROIT, May 7 — Senator Barack Obama of Illinois criticized American
auto companies today for doing too little to lessen the nation’s
dependence on foreign oil and said the United States must adopt a more
aggressive energy policy.
In a speech that hit hard at the failings of Detroit automakers, Mr.
Obama, a Democratic presidential candidate, said Japanese companies had
done far better than their Detroit counterparts to develop energy
Mr. Obama, speaking to a sold-out meeting of the Economic Club of
Detroit, proposed stricter fuel economy standards, wading into a debate
under way in Washington on increasing the corporate average fuel
economy, now at 27.5 miles a gallon for cars and 24 miles a gallon for
“For years, while foreign competitors were investing in more
fuel-efficient technology for their vehicles, American automakers were
spending their time investing in bigger, faster cars,” he said,
according to a text of his remarks. “And whenever an attempt was made to
raise our fuel efficiency standards, the auto companies would lobby
furiously against it, spending millions to prevent the very reform that
could’ve saved their industry.”
Mr. Obama was making his first visit to Detroit since beginning his
presidential campaign. Significantly, he was introduced by Mayor Kwame
Kilpatrick of Detroit, also a Democrat, who has not endorsed a
Mr. Kilpatrick called Mr. Obama “presumably, maybe the next president of
the United States.” Mr. Obama received a standing ovation before his
speech, a rarity for an Economic Club event.
In his speech, Mr. Obama proposed stricter fuel economy standards,
greater availability of tax credits to consumers who buy hybrids or
other ultra-efficient vehicles and subsidies to help automakers pay
health care expenses in return for greater investment in advanced
He asserted that his proposals would save the United States 2.5 million
barrels of oil a day, which he said would be the equivalent of halting
oil imports from the Middle East and would remove 50 million cars’ worth
of pollution from the road.