Ronald Reagan: Father Of The Modern Electric Car?

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U.S. President Ronald Reagan

U.S. President Ronald Reagan

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With the Chevrolet Volt having become such a punching bag of certain media outlets lately, we found ourselves musing on a remarkable notion in electric-car history:

The father of the modern electric car is none other than conservative icon Ronald Reagan.

That idea came a few weeks ago in an article posted on the Daily Caller, an online news outlet launched by Tucker Carlson, the conservative commentator, and Neil Patel, an aide to former vice president Dick Cheney.

Boiled down to its basics, the argument says that by signing legislation to create the California Air Resources Board (CARB) in 1967, while he was governor of that state, Reagan launched the governmental body that would later mandate the sale of zero-emission vehicles--first in the late 1990s and again starting this year.

In fact, the man who would become the nation's 40th president in 1981, not to mention an icon of the conservative right, was no less than the very first chairman of CARB in 1968.

How times change.

The establishment of CARB, and its role in fighting the prevalent Los Angeles smog in those days, are covered in great detail by acclaimed author Daniel Yergin in his latest book, The Quest: Energy, Security, and the Remaking of the Modern World.

2012 Chevrolet Volt

2012 Chevrolet Volt

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We'd covered that history last year, when the book came out, but we must admit we hadn't connected the dots between Reagan and California's smog-fighting efforts.

The entire piece in the Daily Caller is worth reading, in part because it correctly identifies the odious politics around electric cars as reflecting antipathy toward the General Motors bailout and the idea of government subsidies for technology, misdirected toward the vehicle itself.

As author Matt K. Lewis notes, "Conservatives — the largest ideological bloc in the U.S. — seem to harbor an especially strong disdain for the electric car."

"This is, perhaps, ironic."

Indeed.

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