SANTA MONICA, CALIF. -- When Barack Obama's White House campaign learned last week the candidate would get Secret Service protection, "one of the first questions," said spokesman Robert Gibbs, was whether they could provide "a flexible fuel car."
It's not clear yet if the Secret Service will insist on gas guzzlers. "We're working with the Secret Service to find out what the possibilities are," Gibbs said.
The inquiry about the campaign car comes as Obama appears before the Detroit Economic Club today -- his first visit in Michigan as a presidential candidate -- to give what is being billed as a "tough love" speech to Motown automakers who have been resisting federal pressure to increase fuel efficiency.
The Illinois senator will propose in his energy speech "National Low Carbon Fuel Standard" legislation with the goal of reducing dependence on global-warming fossil fuels.
Obama is poised to call for a 4percent increase per year in national "CAFE" average fuel economy standards linked to a package of incentives to get polluting cars off the road.
The proposed carrots include tax breaks to help automakers retool plants to manufacture cars with greater fuel efficiency while not mandating across-the-board boosts in fuel standards for all models.
Obama, following on an energy speech he made at Georgetown University last year, will also call for the government to pick up some of the retiree health costs from automakers in order to free up resources to lead to more alternative fuel cars on the road -- and the infrastructure, such as widely available ethanol gas stations, to support them.