Amid the general hubbub of the press conferences and concept vehicle reveals yesterday, U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi wandered her way through the Detroit Auto Show. Traveling with a lot of Michigan politicians – including Rep. John Dingell (D) and Rep. Fred Upton (R) – Pelosi visited automaker booths and checked in to see what the taxpayer money has been up to recently. The "investment" that the taxpayers made in the auto industry last year, she said at an event at the end of the day, was "about protecting American jobs and the environment." Protecting some of that investment in greener vehicle technologies with a serious gas tax – something that Dingell has supported in the past – was not in the cards right now, she said, because there just isn't enough support for it in Congress. Instead, Pelosi said that upcoming climate change legislation would address some of the same issues that a gas tax would get at.
On top of the bailout funds, government money was apparently well-received by the auto industry, Pelosi said, because the bipartisan, bicameral delegation heard "over and over and over" that the Recovery Act money had boosted research and progress. She said the delegation would return to Washington, D.C. with a message of optimism and that "we've been impressed."