Are you a U.S. automaker? Do you want a billion dollars? Have we got a deal for you! Just build 60,000 cars that get 100 miles per gallon and the government will send a truckload of cash to your office doors (or, perhaps, mail a check).

H.R. 3872 – the Excellence in Energy Efficiency Act of 2012 – was just introduced by Representative Dan Lungren (R) of California's 3rd Congressional District. If passed, the legislation would have the Secretary of Energy "establish a program to award a prize in the amount of $1,000,000,000 to the first automobile manufacturer incorporated in the United States to manufacture and sell in the United States 60,000 mid-sized sedan automobiles which operate on gasoline and can travel 100 miles per gallon."

That's right, no cheating with subcompacts toys or fancy all-electrics, it's for adult-sized gasoline-burners only. It's unclear whether plug-in hybrids such as the Chevy Volt or upcoming Ford Fusion Energi might be eligible, but we doubt it since OpenCongress says the subtitle is, "To provide a prize to the first manufacturer of highly-efficient mid-sized automobiles powered by gasoline," and the Volt already comes in at 93 MPGe.

While established automakers couldn't be lured in by the measly $1 million offered by the Progressive X-Prize, we're sure they'd be more than happy to accept a check with the big B on it. The question this proposed law begs, though, is would they make an extra effort to achieve this sort of sky-high efficiency goal under other circumstances?

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