Sour economy may constrain Obama's vision for greener cars

12/21/2008 | New York Times (tiered subscription model), The

Even before he became president-elect, Barack Obama has had an interest in dramatically retooling the U.S. auto industry. With the bailout, he'll have a powerful tool with which to prod Detroit to prioritize higher efficiency and alternative fuels. But is pursuing that vision compatible with Obama's other needs, including protecting U.S. jobs and satisfying his union backers? Many observers expect a measured approach. "I don't think they need to be afraid of Obama," said Daniel Becker, director of the Safe Climate Campaign for the Center for Auto Safety. "He's not going to say 'by next Tuesday, everything has to be 40 miles per gallon.' But in 10 years? Maybe."

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