Obama: America “Cannot Walk Away” From the Automobile

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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