[Washington Babylon ]The 100 MPG Hummer: Suckers Wanted | Harper's Magazine

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[Washington Babylon]

The 100 MPG Hummer: Suckers Wanted

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Last week Raser Technologies announced a Capitol Hill event for its unlikely new product: an electric Hummer H3, which the company claims gets up to 100 miles per gallon. Even if this were true, and it sounds to me about as likely as turning lead into gold, it’s hard to see the social value of a fuel-efficient 5,000-pound Hummer whose prototype costs millions of dollars. Yet proving the maxim that there’s a sucker born every minute, news of the event sent the company’s stock up nearly 20 percent.

The following day, Senator Orrin Hatch, Republican of Utah, jumped into the driver’s seat of a red Hummer H3 and took it for a test drive. “Better watch out,” he told reporters. “Never know where I’ll be.”

This isn’t Senator Hatch’s first promo gig for Utah-based Raser Technologies. At a press conference in 2005, Hatch, having proposed a tax credit for the purchase of hybrid vehicles, said, “I have had the goal of lowering the market barriers to the mass production of the best available automotive technologies. I believe that Raser’s technology breakthrough will play an important role in achieving this goal.” And eight months ago, Hatch attended a ribbon-cutting for a geothermal power plant built by Raser in Utah.

After the Capitol Hill-generated irrational exuberance passed, Raser’s share price has settled back down to approximately its pre-test drive level.

Incidentally, Raser executives have contributed generously to Republican causes, but not to Senator Hatch. In the last election alone, they contributed $10,600, of which all but $1000 went to Mitt Romney. Which is perfect: makers of the sucker Hummer supporting the ultimate sucker candidate.

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