President Obama has spent lots of tax money trying to make electric cars practical and popular. It has been, by economic “measures, a failure.
We aren’t hearing much from him on the subject during the re-election campaign, so we’ve taken the liberty of writing a new speech for him:
Without a miracle breakthrough in technology, the promise I’ve made to put one million electric vehicles on the road by 2015 isn’t going to happen. I doubt I’ll get halfway there. It’s not that I didn’t try.
I still think I was right to give Tampa and other farsighted communities money to install charging stations. You have to start somewhere. Those chargers will be used.
And I don’t apologize for spending billions of dollars on battery research and direct aid and loans to selected automakers. Hey, it might have worked. But I see now that my plan to spend another $7.5 billion over the next seven years to push electric vehicles is likely to be a waste of your taxes.
I had hoped tax incentives of $7,500 per car would get enough folks to buy them to get the price down. It hasn’t worked out, so earlier this year I proposed upping the rebate to $10,000. L see now that’s a bad idea.
These cars remain quite expensive. The average income of folks buying an electric car is $148,346 a year. Unless you pay $7,500 or more in, taxes, you can’t use the full tax benefit, which means you’ll pay a lot more for your electric car than someone with a higher income. That’s not fair.
Think of what the $7.5 billion we plan to spend in incentives, subsidized loans and tax rebates on
my electric dream could buy. Look, compared to the federal deficit, that’s not much money. But consider it in terms of a thrifty new car like the gasoline-powered Nissan Versa.
For the amount of money I’m planning to throw at electric cars and batteries, I could buy enough new Versas to stretch, bumper touching bumper, from Tampa all the way to Atlanta. In fact, I could fill up four lanes with cars like that, bumper to bumper, from Tampa to Atlanta, for $7.5 billion.
The electric car remains a work in progress. Plenty of research has been going on. People are tinkering in their garages. Scientists are at work in big labs.
The first modern electric cars by Chevrolet were on the road 15 years ago, then recalled. I think about how the first satellite went up in 1957 and 12 years later men landed on the moon. I don’t know why it’s taking so long to electrify our auto fleet.
I’m frustrated about that, but delighted there are a few practical all-electric cars on the market. If you don’t have to go far in your daily travels, I urge you to buy one. If money is no object, you can get a very fast one with interstate range.
I still hope that one day private industry will produce enough electric cars and batteries to create millions of jobs, save consumers money, help the environment, and reduce our dependence on foreign oil.
But don’t count on more taxpayers’ help. We will still support some research but will be phasing out the direct subsidies of car makers, battery producers and consumers. Let’s see what the market comes up with.
This is a speech that hurts me to give. But, you know, facing reality is a big part of good leadership.
This is a Tampa Bay Tribune editorial