program for a new generation vehicle

Obama electric-car research total stunning compared to past R&D efforts

president-you-know-whoTake a look at most of today's news stories about President Obama announcing that the government is awarding $2.4 billion to spur the manufacturing of electric-hybrid cars.

The headline on a New York Times piece is a good example: "Obama visits economically depressed region."

Well, do tell! That hed could've been on dozens of stories in the last year. The accounts of Obama's visit to Elkhart County, Indiana (unemployment rate: 16.8 percent) that we've found so far today are heavy on how this is supposed to be great for the economy. These accounts fall short on how this stacks up as an energy investment compared to past performance.

With the $2.4 billion in federal funds matched by the companies receiving it, we're looking at, according to the White House, "the single largest investment in advanced battery technology for hybrid and electric-drive vehicles ever made." This is huge.

To put this $2.4 billion government investment into context, consider that the Clinton and Bush administrations spent something like $1.5 billion over eight years on an ill-fated program called the Partnership for a New Generation Vehicle. Taxpayers and the Big Three automakers -- which kicked in $8 billion -- funded a research program.

They did find ways to make more fuel-efficient vehicles -- but at a cost of roughly $7,000 to $10,000 per car. Because of the high pricetag, the automakers never put their newfound knowledge into effect.

What did they get for their $1 billion a year?