The partisan politics around electric cars have been poisonous pretty much since they launched in December 2010.

But commentators are now raising two issues that had almost gotten lost amidst Congressional hearings on Volt battery fires, the GM bailout, the Solyndra collapse, and lazy reporting about "disappointing" plug-in car sales after only a year.

The issues coming to the fore are U.S. industrial competitiveness and national security.

As Roland Hwang of the Natural Resources Defense Council points out in a blog entry last month, "The collateral damage of these attacks are the American innovative spirit and jobs."

"I assume," Hwang continues drily, "this not what the right wing critics had in mind when they started their groundless attacks."

Frances Beinecke, NRDC's president, joined with former GM product czar (and climate-change skeptic) Bob Lutz to challenge these attacks in a joint op ed published in the Chicago Tribune.

Lutz, a U.S. Marine, has also frequently challenged his friends on the right over inaccurate coverage of the Chevrolet Volt range-extended electric car, which he famously championed while he was at General Motors.

His most notable column may have been the one memorably titled "The Chevy Volt, Bill O'Reilly, and the Postman's Butt."

And veterans who've actually served in U.S. armed forces, including veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, are often most keenly aware of the national security implications of oil dependency.

U.S. Air Force avionics technician Tim Goodrich at Tinker AFB, Oklahoma

U.S. Air Force avionics technician Tim Goodrich at Tinker AFB, Oklahoma

The men and women ready to put their lives on the line for the U.S.--from Iraq vet Tim Goodrich, who talks about the oil he doesn't use driving his Nissan Leaf, to the 80-year-old Lutz in his Forbes blog--are a voice that's often overlooked.

Their views carry a weight that most political bloviation doesn't. And the spirited rebuttals to inaccurate critiques are encouraging.

In a recent segment, a Fox News commentator even lauded the Chevy Volt for its contribution to energy security.

Hwang concludes, "We cannot let petty politics kill the electric car and the American innovative spirit."

One Republican Congressman, Mike Simpson (R-ID), broke ranks three weeks ago with his party's universal condemnation of the Department of Energy's funding of failed solar-panel maker Solyndra.

Reflecting on the role Congress plays, Simpson told Talking Points Memo, "...if we are going to remove politics from the process, it is incumbent upon Members of Congress to reflect on their own actions as much as they reflect on the actions of others, including the Administration."

Could rationality be returning to discussion of technological innovation and public policy?

Leave us your thoughts in the Comments below.


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