In a March 30 speech in Washington, Mr. Obama announced his mandate that 100% of the federal vehicle fleet be “advanced technology” vehicles by 2015. This means that every vehicle in the federal fleet — some 600,000 currently — will have to be a hybrid or electric vehicle. In an extraordinary coincidence of the kind so common during the Age of Obama, General Electric — headed by Jeffrey Immelt, the chief of the president’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness — will contribute to the brave new “advanced technology” future by buying at least 12,000 Chevy Volts.

For taxpayers, this mandate means extraordinary and unnecessary additional costs. For example, the conventionally fueled Chevy Cruze, the platform on which the Volt is based, would cost approximately $17,000 per unit. For 100 vehicles, that’s $1,700,00. Replace those with the Volt at $41,000 per unit and the figure skyrockets to $4,100,000. It’s just too frightening to contemplate the cost of 600,000 Volts. Hybrid vehicles cost substantially more than comparable conventional vehicles. While it might be possible, with very conservative driving, to recoup that additional initial expense with money saved through higher mileage for some hybrids, the taxpayer will be forever in the hole for every Volt purchased.

Until the enlightened Age of Obama, the free enterprise system was pretty easy for manufacturers to understand. Identify a market, build a product that market wants to buy at a price they’re willing to pay, and rake in the profits. Unfortunately for corporate America and the taxpayer, the proverbial monkey wrench has been thrown into the works by Mr. Obama and his economic advisors — whose only advice seems to be to wreck the economy by spending as much money as possible.

The Volt is an electric pseudo-hybrid compact with a $41,000 manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) — currently selling for as much as $65,000. To “incentivize” the Volt, the Obama administration is providing a $7,500 tax rebate for each sale, a tax rebate it is planning to turn into a direct, point-of-sale rebate in the near future. After all, cash for clunkers was so economically stimulating, this gesture should make Volt sales explode. (Considering the tendency of lithium-ion batteries to do, more or less, just that, this may not be the most encouraging analogy.)

The Volt’s abysmal all-electric range is supplemented by a weak gasoline engine that requires premium fuel. Charging requires up to 12 hours, but may be halved for an additional $2,000 (installation costs not included) for a special 220V home “fast charger.” Depending on the kind and quality of home wiring, installation costs may be daunting. The charger draws so many amps that considerable rewiring may be required, and proud Volt owners may not be able to use any other high-amp appliances (vacuum cleaners, microwave ovens) while their Volt is charging. Remember that the Volt’s only potential claim to real-world practicality — apart from green street cred — is its high-tech electric drive system which promises unlimited gasoline-free miles. Consider that there is no actual charging infrastructure out there in the real world — not that this will matter in parts of the country that experience actual winter. Cold has the unfortunate effect of rapidly draining and even disabling batteries.

Volt sales volume is abysmal, and while GM won’t admit it, even at $41,000 MSRP it is almost certainly losing money on every car. In a genuinely free market, this should not be surprising. After all, for something between $33,500 and $57,500 (that’s minus the $7500 tax rebate), plus more than $2,000 for a charger (installation not included), anyone can be the proud owner of a car that will likely get no better mileage than many conventional vehicles which cost tens of thousands of dollars less. Who could resist that siren song? As it turns out, just about everyone.

What better market for a car no one wants than a government work force that is now at an all-time record of 2.15 million and constantly increasing? And what better way to provide the transportation needs for that artificially conjured market than “advanced technology” vehicles that will cost substantially more than comparable conventional vehicles? Forget not the astronomical additional cost of the huge charging infrastructure that will be, of necessity, installed at federal facilities throughout the nation. Mr. Obama will no doubt tout the plethora of jobs “saved or created” in this pursuit, for the few weeks — or months — that they last.

Whether the economic damage already wrought through action and inaction by Mr. Obama can be undone remains an open question. With his political wings clipped by a Republican House, Mr. Obama plainly intends to do by executive mandate what the law and legislature will not allow, and this end run around free enterprise is but a single recent example. With projects like this vehicular “advanced technology” boondoggle, it seems ever more likely that economic ruin is the future — a future into which Mr. Obama is plunging the nation with advanced technology, at warp speed.

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