Q. You are a strong advocate of electric cars. The EV bill you introduced last year sought to electrify half of America’s vehicles by 2030. Many EV advocates have argued that we can’t quickly move Americans off gas-powered vehicles unless we make gas more expensive. How do you think we can best make the shift to electric cars?

A. Making gas more expensive would be a terrible way to introduce electric cars to the country. What we’ve seen is that slight increases in the price of gas, even when it goes to $4, affects every level of economic activity. It’s the nature of our country: People are used to traveling long distances, trucks travel long distances to deliver food and other products. Our focus should be low cost, not high cost. The way to do it is to invest heavily in research, get batteries that will travel 200 to 300 miles per charge and are cheaper than they are today.

Q. Climate change is another issue you’ve led on. Many of your fellow Republicans, including presidential candidates, deny that climate change exists. Even figures like Newt Gingrich who were once outspoken on climate have backpedaled. Why are we seeing so much erosion on this issue? And what is needed to get Republicans and other skeptics to see the reality of the threat?

A. Well, it became a politicized issue. I believe that we have global warming, and I accept the conclusion of the National Academy of Sciences that human beings are a sufficient cause of it. If people of that caliber told me that my house had a good chance of burning down, I’d buy fire insurance. But I wouldn’t jump out the window or spend all my money on fire insurance.

I think what happened was the cap-and-trade proposal that came our way was such a big contraption and had so many problems that it was easily criticized. A better approach is R&D: gradually moving step by step toward cleaner forms of reliable energy.

Q. Are you saying that if moderate proposals for climate mitigation are proposed, more climate skeptics might be willing to recognize the reality of this threat?

A. Maybe in two to three years I think some of the politicizing which is on both sides will have died down a little bit. But it will be very difficult to get consensus on climate change in the next two to three years.

Q. You’ve also advocated a carbon tax on coal to address climate change.

A. I’ve thought about that. I’ve never put in carbon-tax legislation because I haven’t been persuaded by it. At some point we might require a certain limit of carbon on coal plants, just as we limit tailpipe emissions. But before we do that, we have to start with research and development to try to figure out a technological means to capture carbon.

Q. You’ve also taken a stand against mountaintop removal. What is the role of coal in America’s energy future?

A. It’s hard for me to see an energy future in our country without coal, but it has to be coal that is burned and extracted as cleanly as possible. The holy grail for electricity production is if we can find a commercially viable way to capture carbon from coal plants. If we can, coal will probably increase as a source of supply because we have so much of it.

Q. You’ve said that plugging in your new Nissan Leaf gives you “the patriotic pleasure of not sending money overseas to people who are trying to blow us up.” How are you liking your new ride?

A. I got it in May, after driving a plug-in Prius for two years, which had an A123 battery installed in it. I drive the Leaf around D.C. and have absolutely no problems – even driving it out to Dulles [Airport] and back. I don’t have a charger; I just plug it into the wall at night and that works fine.

Q. Do you get applause from bystanders as you roll silently down the streets of D.C.?

A. Not yet. They probably know I’m in the Congress, so they withhold the applause.