When it comes to which model of vehicle Americans should buy, the federal government knows best — or believes it does. Not content with merely requiring that vehicles get better fuel economy, Congress is now considering legislation that favors the newest fad in green cars — the plug-in hybrid. According to a report in the Detroit Free Press, a Senate committee yesterday approved two bills aimed at promoting hybrid vehicles, one of which would expand a $25 billion loan program aimed at fuel-efficient vehicles and the other a $3.6 billion bill sponsored by Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., aimed specifically at plug-in hybrids.
Perhaps we have moved so far away from free-market capitalism that is has not occurred to some in Congress that it is not their proper role to favor one model of vehicle over another, particularly in light of a potential conflict of interest when the federal government owns General Motors, which has much riding on their planned October launch of the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid. To be fair, General Motors is not the only car company to benefit from the feds' generosity with taxpayer money: $8.6 billion in loans have already been awarded to Ford, Nissan, Tesla, Fisker and Tenneco.
It remains to be seen if plug-in hybrids with their higher price and limited range will be popular with car buyers, but is clear they are a hit with many in Congress who are willingly to spend taxpayer money to help ensure their success.