If California Representative Dan Lungren has his way, automakers may soon have an incentive other than environmental responsibility to design and produce cars that deliver fuel economy of 100 miles per gallon.

According to Fox News, Lungren has introduced a bill in Congress that would award a a $1 billion prize to the first automaker that builds and successfully launches a 100 mpg car. As you’d expect, there are strings attached to the potential prize.

First, the automaker must bring the car to market and sell 60,000 examples to qualify. The car must run on gasoline, not battery power, and must be built by a manufacturer incorporated in the United States.

No car currently on the market would even come close to qualifying for the prize, which seems to ignore all other factors in the name of fuel economy. Could a car return 100 mpg on gasoline and still deliver the comfort, safety and performance that buyers have come to expect? Based on existing technology, our guess would be no.

It’s also odd that diesel, which holds more promise for delivering the type of fuel economy envisioned, seems to be excluded from consideration. Maybe that’s the point Lungren is trying to make, and setting the bar high ensures that manufacturers will work to develop fuel-saving technologies that don’t exist today.

We have no idea how the prize, if approved, will be funded, but we like the basic concept behind the idea. When it comes to pushing the envelope of technology, few incentives through the ages have worked better than cold, hard cash.