A bill just introduced in Congress would put the electric car movement on the fast track and go a long way toward clearing smog-choked urban skies and weaning the U.S. economy from its unreasonable and risky dependence on oil.

Authorizing the federal government to spend up to $65 million toward the research and development of electric vehicles would be a sound investment.Some of the money would focus on the development of electric vehicles and their components, especially batteries. Other projects would seek markets for the cars and concentrate on developing the facilities for making electric cars practical, such as service stations and battery installation and recharging centers.

This would represent, in the words of Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., "an automobile revolution."

It is a little known fact that replacing 1 per cent of the gasoline-powered vehicles on the road in the United States with electric vehicles would save about 60,000 barrels of oil per day.

Not only that but according to the Electric Power Research Institute, electric vehicles produce only 2 percent of the organic compounds and carbon monoxide emitted by gasoline vehicles.

Those who argue against electric cars say that gasoline is getting cheaper since the end of the gulf war, and as long as gasoline is cheap, consumers will refuse to buy fuel-efficient automobiles that may be more expensive and smaller.

Such reasoning is ridiculous. Any thinking person realizes how flagrantly unpredictable the price of gasoline has been in the past and is likely to be in the future.

Besides, with the passage last year of a new clean-air law and a renewed push for tougher fuel-efficiency standards, auto manufacturers have shown increased interest in the electric car.

Now is the time to take advantage of that interest and allow the automobile revolution to take its course.