Columnists, Energy, Environment, Jon Caldara, Transportation

Caldara: Reject Xcel’s cronyist charging station scheme

(You can listen to this column, read by the author, here.)

There’re really two different products the private sector can offer: a “push” or a “pull” product.

A “push” product is something that a company must persuade consumers to buy. It’s like rolling a snowball up a hill.

A “pull” product by contrast pulls customers to it like a magnet, a snowball rolling down the hill. The more potential customers know about it, the more they want it.

Apple’s Steve Jobs went on stage holding the world’s first iPod and said, “imagine taking a 1,000 of your favorite songs with you in your shirt pocket,” as he placed it in his. People wanted it immediately.

Years later, he held up the first iPhone. We didn’t even know we wanted it, craved it, because we never knew what it was until we saw it. People literally camped in line in front of stores to buy it. That’s a pull product.

What will go down in history as the greatest push product? The electric vehicle.

Never has so much corporate welfare, regulation, direct tax subsidies, indirect tax subsidies, governmental propaganda and special-interest pressure gone into selling a product that is still nowhere even close to becoming profitable.

Pull the rug of regulatory mandates, tax subsidies and cronyism out from under the EV industry and it would make Betamax videotape and New Coke look like business juggernauts.

And as an amusing aside, since most electricity is still produced by fossil fuels, electric vehicles don’t cut pollution as much as move it. In Europe during recent brownouts people were forbidden to charge their EVs. Well, that’ll stop pollution.

And now the corporate welfare behemoth Xcel Energy is going to bilk us for another $140 million to build out EV charging stations in Colorado.

Let’s see if we fully understand this. It’s not enough that we created a phony EV marketplace through ridiculous environmental mandates to begin with. It’s not enough that we give EV car manufacturers like Tesla massive direct subsidies.

It’s not enough that we give them even greater indirect subsidies through environmental credits.

What made Elon Musk most rich is that regular car companies had to buy his pollution credits. He didn’t need to use any of his own because his cars don’t have combustible engines. Money just fell out of the sky and landed in his pocket, thanks to government mandates. For other car manufacturers just to stay in business they had to pay him ransom to buy his pollution credits!

It’s not enough that we must pay for direct tax subsidies from the state and federal level to mostly rich white people to buy EVs (studies show most electric vehicles are second or third cars bought by wealthier white families).

It’s not enough that we give special parking places where we go to shop and work to mostly rich white people who have purchased EVs.

But now we must pay $140 million more in our electric bills to build a system of free gas stations for these people to use a product they never would have purchased in the first place without us paying them to do so.

I don’t remember paying Xcel Energy to put up gas stations so we regular working folks could fill up our 20-year old Toyota Camrys.

If there’s a market for charging stations, they will appear just like private gas stations did. Instead, we have Front Range cities putting caps on new gas stations —yet another gun to the head to buy an EV.

This is the point where some supporter of the new energy industrial complex screams, “oh but what about all the subsidies fossil fuels gets!” Fair enough, but fossil fuels get only a fraction the subsidy. It’s still worth removing.

Most of those oil and gas subsidies are because they drill on government lands at what anti-energy activists believe are at below-market costs. They could be. So, sell off the lands and then we’d find what the private full market cost to drill there is (they don’t like that solution either).

Colorado handled its air pollution and brown cloud challenge the right way by inspecting automobiles with roadside emissions tests and getting polluting cars off the roads.

Now we turn to corporatism at the expense of the working poor.

Keep pushing that snowball uphill.

Jon Caldara is president of the Independence Institute, a free market think tank in Denver.


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