Sunday, October 31, 2010

Obama's electric-car cult

I haven't paid much attention to the emergence of hybrid and electric cars on the logic that I don't need to. Like most "green" technologies, I figure, the science and economics don't yet add up, else consumers would be flocking to them. The fact that they're not, despite all the hype and the furtherance of government rebates and subsidies, is a strong sign that these products aren't viable. A product that has to be forced on me at the point of a proverbial gun (CFL light bulbs, and Obamacare come to mind) is a bad product. Get back to me when you're making an honest profit.

So, I wasn't surprised to read this in today's Washington Post:
Maybe it was karma, but the [GM Chevy] Volt's launch coincided with publication of a 72-page report by J.D. Power and Associates that confirmed, in devastating detail, what many other experts have found: Electric cars still cost too much, even with substantial federal subsidies for both manufacturers and consumers, to attract more than a handful of wealthy buyers - and this will be true for at least another decade.
Doesn't exactly make you want to rush right out and get one, does it? And there's not much there for the rational environmentalist either:
What little gasoline savings the vehicles achieve could be had through cheaper alternative means. And electrics don't reliably reduce greenhouse gas emissions, since, as often as not, the electricity to charge their batteries will come from coal-fired plants.
. . .
Fine print on the Volt ad promises just "25-50 miles of electric driving in moderate conditions." Translation: Much of the time the car will be running on gas, just like ones that cost far, far less than the four-seat Volt's price of $33,500 (after a $7,500 federal tax credit).
. . .
[T]he disposal of depleted battery packs presents yet another environmental challenge.
This is what you get when you let government meddle in the market: a not-ready-for-prime-time turkey, courtesy of the American tax payer. Anyone else thinking that letting Obama take over the car industry wasn't such a good idea?

I wonder how Ford, the American auto company not being run by Washington, is doing. A quick search, and here we have it, Exhibit B:
According to the Wall Street Journal, Ford sales for the month of December 2009 were up 33.5 percent compared to December 2008, even as Chrysler and GM sales were falling.
And Exhibit C:
Ford Motor Company's plan to add more than 1,000 jobs at seven Michigan plants is proof that the Motor City, so hammered by this economy, is finally seeing early glimmers of a comeback.

Ford, the only U.S. automaker not to take federal bailout money, is leading the way. This morning, the company announced their record third quarter profits.
Now there's a bit o' inconvenient truth. Want to see the economy turn around and America strong and vibrant again? Tell Washington to mind its own business, then stand back and hold on for the ride.

Or, we can keep riding that good ol' Audacity Express:
In short, the Obama administration's commitment of $5 billion in loans and grants for electric cars is the biggest taxpayer rip-off since corn-based ethanol. It benefits no one but a few well-to-do car buyers and politically connected companies. Any "green" jobs these rent-seeking firms create will vanish when consumers reject their products and/or the subsidies cease.
. . .
For a president who claims to make policy based on "facts and science and argument," lavishing subsidies on electric cars is an intellectual scandal.
. . .
[L]like a rural voter clinging to his guns, the Obama administration brushes aside the experts because - well, who knows why? Perhaps subsidizing electric cars helps a Democratic administration make corporate welfare and tax breaks for the wealthy seem progressive.
I don't know about you, but this isn't the change I was hoping for.

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