Last week when President Barack Obama whacked President George W. Bush's $1.2 billion initiative to develop hydrogen as a viable fuel for automobiles, he ended decades of political subterfuge that kept Washington from raising corporate average fuel economy standards.
Six years ago, when Bush announced details of the hydrogen initiative, he was hiding from CAFE.
It was a nifty move. But he wasn't the first president to duck the issue.
President Bush apparently believed General Motors executives and others from Detroit who told him they were just a couple of years away from being able to produce a competitively priced vehicle powered by a hydrogen fuel cell.
Everybody knew that all that was needed was a little more money, a little more time and a whole new hydrogen delivery infrastructure. So there was no need to muck things up by raising CAFE.
Environmentalists were outraged. They sensed criminal conspiracy because Bush had once been in the oil business. Of course he wants to burn more oil, not less, they screeched.
But the Bush hydrogen initiative merely replaced the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles, which President Clinton had launched 10 years earlier as his way to duck and hide from raising CAFE.
The difference was that the Clinton administration didn't have the courage of its convictions.
Back then Vice President Al Gore already was an outspoken advocate of saving the world by getting rid of the internal combustion engine, or at least radically reducing the use of petroleum-based fuels to propel automobiles.
When it came time for the Clinton administration - with a Democrat-controlled Congress - to attack the problem they wouldn't, they couldn't, they didn't dare, because the UAW opposed it.
The politically expedient thing to do was to hide behind PNGV. And Vice President Gore became the administration's point man.
Say what you will about the various energy policies of Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama, but at least the fig leaves are gone.