Auto bailout and gas prices topics in presidential debate

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Obama, Romney

The auto industry and gas prices figured prominently in the second presidential debate. Image: Cain and Todd Benson/Flickr/CC BY-ND

The rising cost of gasoline and the bailout of the auto industry were major topics of contention in Tuesday night’s presidential debates. No surprises there.

Presidential debate on auto industry bailout

Shortly after the start of the debate, President Obama reiterated Romney’s famous remarks from his 2008 New York Times editorial, “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.”

Obama said:

“I want to build manufacturing jobs in this country again. Now when Gov. Romney said we should let Detroit go bankrupt, I said we’re going to bet on American workers and the American auto industry and it’s coming back.”

Romney was quick to turn the argument to his side, saying that the president did indeed let Chrysler go bankrupt:

“My plan was to have the company go through bankruptcy like 7-Eleven did and Macy’s…and come out stronger.”

Obama countered, saying that Romney’s plan would not leave them any way to stay open:

“What Governor Romney said just isn’t true. He wanted to take them into bankruptcy without providing them any way to stay open. And we would have lost a million jobs. And that — don’t take my word for it, take the executives at GM and Chrysler, some of whom are Republicans, may even support Governor Romney. But they’ll tell you his prescription wasn’t going to work.”

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Moving on to the cost of gas

The candidates were ready for more verbal battle over Detroit, but moderator Candy Crowley changed the subject to the high cost of gasoline.

Obama answered that we need to seek other ways of lowering energy costs:

“We can’t just produce traditional sources of energy. We’ve also got to look to the future. That’s why we doubled fuel efficiency standards on cars. That means in the middle of the next decade, any car you buy, you’re going to end up going twice as far on a gallon of gas.”

Romney then tried to lay blame on the White House for the high prices:

“When the president took office, the price of gasoline here in Nassau County was about $1.86 a gallon. Now it’s $4 a gallon.”

Obama then said that Romney’s proposed policies might be able to lower gas prices, but only at the expense of the economy:

“Why is [it that gas prices were so low in 2009]? Because the economy was on the verge of collapse, because we were about to go through the worst recession since the Great Depression, as a consequence of some of the same policies that Governor Romney’s now promoting. So, it’s conceivable that Governor Romney could bring down gas prices because with his policies, we might be back in that same mess.”

The president also pointed out that oil production on federal lands is higher than it has been in 16 years, and natural gas production is the highest it has been in decades.

Romney, however, said that total production of oil is down because of increased regulation on drilling, and because of the president’s nixing the Keystone oil pipeline.

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Left unspoken

Many expected Romney to bring up this week’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing of electric car battery maker A123 Systems. Obama has received much criticism from the right for subsidizing electric automakers. Surprisingly, the subject was never raised.


Crain’s Detroit
Inside Line

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