Move over, Solyndra. Conservatives opposed to the Obama administration’s spending on clean energy have a new whipping boy.
The electric Chevrolet Volt is the new focus of angry conservative blog posts, testy congressional hearings and joking videos. And Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich have taken shots at the car’s puny sales and size, with Gingrich jeering, “You can’t put a gun rack on a Volt.”
The Volt, critics say, represents another failed investment by President Obama in a clean-energy effort, following on the heels of the more than half-a-billion dollars from the stimulus sent to the now-bankrupt solar equipment company Solyndra. That the Volt is produced by General Motors Co., a company still partially owned by the government after the 2009 bailout, only adds fuel to conservatives’ ire.
“It becomes a campaign issue because it’s woven into the narrative that this is what President Obama’s administration does: It provides enormous subsidies and puts billions of dollars into green energy that the public doesn’t want,” Lansing, Mich.-based Republican strategist Steve Mitchell said.
“To a candidate trying to appeal to conservative voters … the Chevy Volt represents the type of intrusion into private sector by the government and it represents enormous financial resources being spent on technology that the public does not want.”
The political chatter is loud enough that GM was forced to respond with a commercial. “There’s been a lot talk about the Chevy Volt lately,” it says. “How about some facts?”
The ad, which launched online on Feb. 14, lists awards and safety recognitions the car has won. The GM effort was boosted last week by the launch of the company’s “btw” blog, which says it is aimed at offering GM’s “point of view, when the collective view gets a little clouded.”
But Volt critics aren’t relenting. Red State contributor Ben Howe launched a new website and Twitter feed this week that promotes a tongue-in-cheek effort to make the Volt Obama’s running mate.
GM has “proven that in America you can make it in any business, as long as you have unlimited financial resources and the backing of the United States government,” an actor says in a parody video produced by Howe for his site. “I don’t know about you, but I think that’s more than worse the couple-hundred-thousand dollars it costs taxpayers every time somebody buys one of these suckers.”
Howe said the video and Twitter feed are meant to draw attention to the cost of the auto industry bailout, which he said was an overreach of government. And, he added, the Volt also represents the White House trying to interfere in the auto market to promote a clean-energy strategy that Howe deemed unsuccessful.
“They’re pushing for something that the market would naturally do and in a way I think is dangerous,” Howe said.
Howe’s website links to another site, BailoutCost.com, which tallies the taxpayer cost of the auto bailout. Howe, who says he did not create the BailoutCost site, said he will continue to hammer on the Volt site as long as the bailout remains a campaign issue.