Illustration for article titled Obama Plays Green Cop, Bad Cop With US Automakers

The White House announced this week that President Obama will buy about $285 million worth of American automobiles from Detroit—a huge boon to an industry spiraling toward bankruptcy and causing sky-high levels of unemployment in the state of Michigan and across the country. From the mothership:

The purchase is slated to include 2,500 hybrid sedans, the largest one-time purchase of hybrid vehicles to date for the federal fleet.

“This is only a first step, but I will continue to ensure that we are working to support the American auto industry during this difficult period of restructuring,” Obama said in a statement.

Each vehicle must have a better fuel economy rating than the one it replaces. The government aims to boost the new fleet's overall fuel efficiency at least 10 percent.

The new cars are intended to reduce the government's gasoline consumption by 1.3 million gallons a year and prevent 26 million pounds of carbon-dioxide from entering the atmosphere, the administration said.


Buying 17,600 cars from General Motors, Ford and Chrysler is a pretty big symbol of confidence in American manufacturing. And a deserved one—much of the debate over the auto industry’s woes have come not because the cars were poorly made or unsafe (big concerns for government agencies), but rather because, for 50 years, the big three companies privileged short-term profits over long-term financial health, and have recently been crippled by the rising costs of health care for factory workers.

Now that Obama has administered a kick in the pants—ousting GM CEO Rick Wagoner and showing no mercy when it comes to trashing the companies’ restructuring proposals—he’s back to the good cop, providing a very public cash influx to the same companies. A bailout with benefits, you might call it. And it's a good sign that emphasis has been placed on the environmental friendliness of the new fleet; it shows the US and the world that, while we’ve fallen far behind other countries in tailpipe emissions standards, and by consequence green auto technology—we’ll be back.



Covers the White House and Washington for The Root. Follow her on Twitter.

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