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Car Culture

Obama: America “Cannot Walk Away” From the Automobile

11:49 AM PST on February 25, 2009

In
his first address to a joint session of Congress, President Barack
Obama last night emphasized his administration's commitment to keeping
the domestic auto industry afloat, while offering only a passing
mention to the nation's mass transit systems. Said Obama:

As
for our auto industry, everyone recognizes that years of bad
decision-making and a global recession have pushed our automakers to
the brink. We should not, and will not, protect them from their own bad
practices. But we are committed to the goal of a re-tooled, re-imagined
auto industry that can compete and win. Millions of jobs depend on it.
Scores of communities depend on it. And I believe the nation that
invented the automobile cannot walk away from it.

With
energy policy at the top of his agenda, the president pledged
investment in solar and wind power, biofuels, "clean coal," and "more
fuel-efficient cars and trucks built right here in America."

If indeed there are serious plans to include municipal mass transit
-- which millions of working Americans also depend on -- as part of the
mix, Obama is playing it close to the vest. Public transportation was
mentioned only once during last night's speech. Along with "jobs
rebuilding our roads and bridges," the president said Americans would
be put to work by "expanding mass transit."

What did you think of the speech, particularly in light of the hit-and-miss stimulus package?
Do you remain hopeful that Obama "gets it" when it comes to the value
of public transportation in reducing oil dependence and fostering
sustainable communities, or is his seemingly unflagging commitment to
propping up Detroit too much?

Finally, is it true that
Americans can't "walk away" from the automobile? This may be a valid
point. Our obesity epidemic and general lack of sidewalks make it
pretty tough to walk away from anything.

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