Michigan is likely to be one of the big battlegrounds in this year's presidential race, and both candidates are preparing to wage war with their own take on the issue of oil and the auto industry. Senator John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, pulled the wraps off his own plans this week, promising to break America's dependence on oil.
Among other things, the Arizona Senator says he'll set tough new mileage targets for automakers, tax credits designed to encourage buyers to opt for more fuel-efficient vehicles, and hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to battery developers.
"The unwise policies of our government have left America's energy future in the control of others," McCain declared, during a Fresno, California, campaign stop, in a swipe at Congress and the Bush Administration. "We're going to produce more, conserve more, and invent more," McCain added. "And to a large extent, this strategy hinges on innovations in the cars and trucks we drive."
But the candidate's proposals drew criticism, as well, from his presumed Democratic opponent, Barack Obama. The Illinois Senator accused McCain of "tinkering at the edges," rather than addressing the oil issue head-on.
Advisers insist McCain is looking for a range of solutions, rather than favoring any single alternative. But one of the more significant parts of his speech outlined plans to use a proposed $300 million award to encourage the development of battery technology "that has the size, capacity, cost and power to leapfrog the commercially available plug-in hybrids or electric cars."
Among the many oil alternatives under development, McCain said he sees ethanol-based E85 as one of the most ready fixes to the nation's petroleum fixation.
Meanwhile, he proposed a $5,000 credit for consumers who buy vehicles producing no carbon dioxide emissions.
Sounding a tough note, the Republican said there is no longer time to wait for solutions to come along. "Whether it takes a meeting with automakers during my first month in office, or my signature on an act of Congress, we will meet the goal of a swift conversion of American vehicles away from oil."