Obama: Gov’t should help car makers clean up their act

White House hopeful Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) said Monday that the U.S. must start producing cleaner cars in order to stop global warming, eliminate its dependence on foreign oil and save its auto industry.

Speaking to the Detroit Economic Club, Obama said that, if elected, he would give automakers healthcare assistance for retirees and require half of the savings to be invested in technology that would lower emissions.

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We all know the statistic — healthcare costs currently account for $1,500 of every [General Motors] car,” Obama said. “We’ll help to partially defray those healthcare costs, but only if the manufacturers are willing to invest the savings right back into the production of more fuel-efficient cars and trucks.”

Obama also proposed stricter emissions standards and offered potential tax credits to companies for making cars cleaner than the government would require. Obama said he plans to lift restrictions on tax credits for individuals who buy hybrids.

The Illinois senator called on automakers to play a central role in the clean-energy renaissance that he and other presidential candidates have said America needs, asking Detroit for “a historic effort on the scale of what we saw in those factories during World War II.”

But, according to Obama, it’s not as simple as America needing Detroit’s sacrifice; U.S. automakers need to build cleaner engines to compete with foreign companies.

“Today there are two kinds of car companies: those that mass-produce fuel-efficient cars and those that will,” Obama said. “Here in Detroit, three giants of American industry are hemorrhaging jobs and profits as foreign competitors answer the rising global demands for fuel-efficient cars.”