Obama, Inslee Introduce Bill to Help U.S. Automakers Produce Hybrids, Lower Health Care Costs
U.S. Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) and U.S. Representative Jay Inslee (D-WA) today reintroduced the Health Care for Hybrids Act, legislation that would allow automakers to receive federal assistance to help pay their legacy health care costs if they invest some of their savings in building more fuel-efficient automobiles.
"To fight climate change, we must change the formula by highlighting the shared interests of workers, environmentalists, and industry stakeholders," said Senator Obama. "The Health Care for Hybrids Act will reduce our dependence on oil while providing automakers with resources to invest in the future of their industry. Producing energy efficient technology could help the U.S. auto industry regain its competitive edge."
"Hybrid cars are a technology available to us today that can dramatically reduce our nation's addiction to oil and greenhouse-gas emissions," said Representative Inslee, a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee who test drove a next generation plug-in hybrid on Capitol Hill in March. "Our bill gives incentives and levels the playing field so that American automakers can lead in green cars and supply these vehicles to the world."
The transportation sector accounts for two-thirds of United States oil consumption. Wide scale deployment of hybrid and advanced fuel efficient vehicles could slash U.S. demand for overseas oil. But, as the demand for fuel efficient cars increases globally, foreign manufacturers are filling the orders by increasing production of hybrid cars, while U.S. automakers continue to rely on sales of SUVs and trucks. With record losses, the U.S. auto industry cannot afford to make the investments that are required to adapt.
The Big 3 automakers rightly argue that their retiree health care costs, expected to be $6.2 billion in 2006, hurt their ability to invest and compete.
The Health Care for Hybrids Act would address the unique challenges of the U.S. auto industry and reduce our country's dependence on foreign oil at the same time. This bill would set up a voluntary program in which domestic automakers could choose to receive federal financial assistance to cover 10% of their annual legacy health care costs through 2017. The companies that participate in the program would be required to invest at least 50% of their health care savings into manufacturing fuel efficient cars, such as hybrids and advanced diesel vehicles in the United States, or helping domestic parts suppliers retool their manufacturing plants to produce advanced parts.
These investments would help domestic auto manufacturers and parts suppliers meet the growing demand for fuel efficient vehicles. More American hybrid cars also ensure that there is competition in this growing market and would also help keep car prices low.