- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Makers of the Liberator Car were on Capitol Hill peddling their electric car/monorail hybrid last week, which would ride on an overhead monorail system for long distances across the nation and ride on streets using battery power.

The small wonders (the demo model outside Union Station last week looked a bit smaller than the tiny Smart cars) would likely need a big cash infusion from the federal government to build any sort of cross-country monorail system.

While the massive infrastructure costs would be a hard pitch in cash-strapped Washington, the carmakers may find a receptive audience among some of Congress’ gearheads.

Sen. Robert Bennett, Utah Republican, has sacrificed comfort for innovation in the past, buying a small electric/gas hybrid, the Honda Insight back in 2000.

And Sen. Richard Burr, North Carolina Republican, can be spotted around Capitol Hill driving his 1974 Volkswagen Thing. In a video on his campaign Web site, Mr. Burr is seen wiping snow from his boxy, gray VW coach.

The Thing was a wily innovation in its time (the ‘70s) with easily interchangeable parts and boxy, utilitarian look. The Thing developed a cult following in the U.S. and has occasionally popped up in Hollywood flicks as the quirky character’s car.

It remains to be seen whether the Liberator Car will take off, go underground or stand still.

Tall order

A group of environmental outfits have are embarking on a $500 million green retrofit of New York’s Empire State Building.

The Clinton Climate Initiative, founded by former President Bill Clinton, is leading the group which plans to improve energy efficiency in the famous office building by 38 percent by 2013.

The buildings lights, windows, radiators and air vents are being worked on in the 102-story building, which was built more than 75 years ago. President Obama and congressional leaders have made building retrofits a keey part of their plans to curb greenhouse gas emissions by reducing energy consumption.

The Week(s) Ahead

With Congress on a break the next two weeks, the Hill will be somewhat quieter, which is not to say there won’t be plenty of groundwork being laid in preparation of the coming House debate on cap and trade.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry A. Waxman and Energy and Environment subcommittee Chairman Edward J. Markey set a brisk schedule for moving the climate bill. Industry leaders are meeting with House energy committee members over the next two weeks to air their thoughts on the proposal, according to energy industry lobbyists speaking on the condition of anonymity.

Also looming for budget negotiators is the question of whether to add a cap-and-trade plan to the budget or let that beast lie until lawmakers have vetted the plan and approved comprehensive legislation.

The HR File

Kevin Book, a regular at Hill energy hearings and favorite among Democrats and Republicans, is back with an energy firm started by two Bush administration emigres. Clear View Partners teams Mr. Book with Kevin Kolevar, former Energy Department assistant secretary for electricity delivery and energy reliability and Chase Hutto, who was former Vice President Dick Cheney’s energy adviser.

Mr. Obama is expected to nominate Anne Castle as the Interior Department’s assistant secretary for water and science. Ms. Catle is currently a law partner at Holland and Hart in Denver.

And the former Republican communications chief for the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Marc Morano, is back in the private sector as executive director of ClimateDepot.com.

Tom LoBianco can be reached at [email protected]

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