The tried-and-true methods of selling cars are trusted because they work well, as their continued high performance in the marketplace indicates.
The auto industry is undergoing significant, exciting changes. Over the next two years, manufacturers are expected to bring more than 30 new electric vehicle models to market with autonomous vehicles likely to follow soon after.
It’s not just on the product side that things are in flux. Innovations in retail have streamlined the complicated buying process, making changes to the financing, trade-ins, titling, registration, insurance and other parts of car and truck buying.
To the consumer, this is progress. To others, it’s an excuse to once again drag out the tired, old trope that the day of the local dealership is passed. That’s a bunch of snake oil. The truth is that the auto retail and the dealership model is remarkably resilient, growing in popularity among millennials and Gen Z.
A recent piece in the highly respected MarketWatch claimed direct sales through companies like Tesla and Carvana represent the future of auto retail. Assertions like these are merely intuitive, lacking real-world evidence and ignoring what those purchasing cars and trucks have experienced.
Carvana, which sells used cars, is in the crosshairs of federal and state government regulators over a variety of issues involving customers and the buying process. Search “Carvana complaints” on the internet and you’ll find an overwhelming number of unhappy customers nationwide. With its stock down more than 80% since August and its business model called into question, Wall Street is rethinking its support for this one-time market disruptor.
Ironically, Carvana is just the kind of middleman between seller and buyer the proponents of change decry. Tesla, which does not allow negotiation pricing, increased prices on its base model by 37% since it launched, a steep premium for a fixed price on a vehicle already too expensive for most working-class car buyers to consider. Meanwhile, Tesla customers often wait three weeks or longer for simple service and repairs, in part because there is no dealership competition in the Tesla network.
That might be okay for high-income Tesla owners who have alternatives when it comes to personal transportation but for consumers in the mass market, a three-week wait for service is a non-starter. To say Tesla’s sales model embodies the future of car buying is comical.
The traditional franchised dealership model works. Sale prices may be up because of microchip supply constraints that crimped supply and sales by two million vehicles since 2019, and reduced manufacturer incentives but they are nothing like Tesla’s premium.
On the service side, customers benefit when locally owned and operated dealerships compete. In the direct sales model, if the nearest Chevrolet franchise can’t fit you in today, you can almost certainly find another that can.
Don’t overlook the fact virtually all dealerships sell both online and in the showroom, and are increasingly embracing the one-price model. It creates massive efficiencies at the sales level. One large dealership group based in Minneapolis sells on a one-price model and is coming close to getting customers in and out of the dealership in less than 30 minutes. They believe they can bring it down to 15 or less.
The proof is in the data. Escalent, a Detroit-based research firm put together a massive study of Electric Vehicle “intenders” — customers who are interested in purchasing a new EV in the next two years. Escalent asked which sales model consumers prefer — the direct model or the franchised model.
Only 20% of the 30,000 respondents preferred the direct sales model employed by Tesla. Amazingly, the number was even less among millennials and generation Z, where 94% of respondents under 35 are satisfied with dealerships.
Local dealerships have changed dramatically in the last 30 years. Young and first-time car buyers know that firsthand. The ones who don’t are those still hung up on 40-year-old stereotypes, which scarcely exist anywhere anymore.
Changes that produce greater efficiencies, increase productivity, or add to the economies of scale are to be welcome. There are ways traditional franchisers can and have improved the way they do business. Just because something is new doesn’t make it better. Likewise, the tried-and-true methods of production and sale are trusted because they work well, as their performance in the marketplace indicates.
“This proposal is essentially reverse Robin Hood… Billions of dollars coming out of the pockets of working people and working families and it is transferred to the most fortunate in our country.”
Although those words from career politician Ron Wyden were intended to deride a Republican policy he opposed back in March of 2017, they instead perfectly describe a proposal he himself put forth in March of 2020. Senator Wyden recently sponsored an amendment to save taxpayer-funded subsidies for luxury electric vehicles [EVs] often enjoyed by ultra-rich multimillionaires like himself.
For more than a decade, the working people and working families that Senator Wyden claims to fight for in Washington have collectively been forced to help contribute up to $7,500 for every EV sold in America – that is, until each manufacturer sells 200,000 units. As one of Wyden’s Senate colleagues, Wyoming’s John Barrasso, notes, between 2011 and 2017, EV buyers therefore received a total of $4.7 billion in tax credits. The bipartisan Joint Committee on Taxation, meanwhile, estimates that the credit will cost taxpayers $7.5 billionbetween FY2018 and FY2022 alone in its current form.
Given the tremendous amount of taxpayer assistance the industry has already received, its response to the foregoing phase-out period should be rooted in gratitude rather than greed. But these billions are apparently insufficient for colossal electric car corporations hoping to sustain their taxpayer-funded windfall from Washington for as long as professional politicians like Ron Wyden will permit. Accordingly, in an act of total contempt for his middle-class constituents, Senator Wyden is working to deliver an additional $16 billion to these carmakers’ coffers over the course of the next decade – a product of the industry’s relentless lobbying push to lift the aforementioned limit up to 600,000 units as more and more EV manufacturers prepare to join giants like General Motors and Tesla in outselling their caps.
While a $7,500-per-vehicle tax credit may sound like pocket change to the sixteenth richest lawmaker in the United States Senate – back in 2016, Wyden had an estimated net worth of nearly $10 million – it is a significant sum to the working people who must subsidize the purchases of his prominent pals in the top 1 percent. Yet, this precise group of people is priced out of very luxury cars they help finance as “the median price for electric vehicles is roughly $20,000 more than the median price of gas-powered cars.” Per a recent reportreleased by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service – which is widely considered to be Congress’s think tank – “EV tax credits are disproportionately claimed by higher-income taxpayers.” More specifically, “most of the tax credits (78%) are claimed by filers with adjusted gross income (AGI) of $100,000 or more, and those filers receive an even higher proportion (83%) of the amount of credits claimed.”
Additional data about the income demographics of those who most frequently claim the credit make clear that EVs are taxpayer-funded toys for wealthy people like Wyden:
– A 2018 Pacific Research Institute study found that “79 percent of electric vehicle plug-in tax credits were claimed by households with adjusted gross incomes of greater than $100,000 per year”;
– The 2017 U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Household Travel Surveyrevealed that “about two-thirds of households with [battery electric or plug-in hybrid electric vehicles] have incomes higher than $100,000”;
– In a 2017 CarMax/CleanTechnica survey, 17 percent of households with EVs – the largest share of any income bracket – earned $200,000 or more the previous year; and
– Energy economists at the University of California, Berkeley concluded that “the top income quintile has received about 90% of all [Qualified Plug-in Electric Drive Motor Vehicle Credits].”
Setting aside the EV subsidy program’s disturbing proneness to fraud and abuse – late last year, a government watchdog concluded that “bogus electric vehicle tax credits” cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars – it can clearly be called a failed subsidy program because of the disparity between those who are fortunate enough to claim the credit and those who are compelled to contribute to it. As Senator Wyden so aptly put it, “this proposal is essentially reverse Robin Hood” because it redistributes precious resources from working people to the wealthy; from his middle-class constituents to massive EV corporations.
Eliminating, rather than extending or enlarging, the EV tax credit is clearly the proper course as Congress considers its path forward. Let’s pull the plug on this welfare program for the most affluent among us.
Any extension, expansion or enlargement of the electric vehicle tax credit is a profoundly bad idea and essentially robs the taxpayers to pad the pockets of the wealthy who can afford the best lobbyists money can buy.
When the original legislation giving tax credits and subsidies for electrical vehicles passed more than a decade ago, its sponsors promised that it would be temporary and were only designed to help new technologies gain a foothold in the marketplace. Now more than a dozen years later, some irresponsible legislators are ready to move away from temporary, limited subsidies and are headed towards a permanent and almost unlimited subsidies.
This is both bad policy, and dangerous. Government’s power to tax should not be used to transfer wealth to those who can afford the best lobbyists. Single parents working two jobs to make ends meet should not be forced to take an extra shift so that they can support this sort of wasteful spending. If rich car purchasers want to buy new expensive electric sports cars, they should be free to do so. But the idea that they should be able to reach into the wallet of the single parent struggling to make ends meet is unconscionable!
Virtually 80 cents of every dollar spent on subsidies went to households with more than $100,000 of income. And, of course, all of the taxpayer provided cash benefits wealthy and profitable car companies — like Tesla and its billionaire founder Elon Musk. It is revealing that almost 1/2 of all the subsidies for electric vehicles go to just one state — California.
This is a wealth transfer from the working poor and middle class to the wealthy. And it is a wealth transfer from 49 states to 1 state. Before anyone votes for these wealth transfers, they must provide an explanation. Why is this good for America? Why is this good for taxpayers? I know it is good for Mr. Musk and Tesla. But why is it good for that single parent who is working so hard to provide her children with a better life?
There is no need to extend, expand or continue subsidies for electric vehicles. Sales of electric cars have been on the increase for years. The original rationale was that the temporary aide would help them get established and build economies of scale that would drive prices down. Twelve years is more than enough time.
Some argue that the subsidies are justified because electric cars are “zero emission” vehicles. But that is a lie. Electric cars are plugged into the power grid to recharge and whatever emissions were created while generating the electricity needed to recharge the car are the car’s emissions. Nationally, that won’t be anything close to zero. Moreover, recent studies indicate that full life-cycle emissions from electrical vehicles may exceed those from new internal combustion engines. So it is unlikely that electric vehicles provide the environmental benefits promised.
Since there is no longer any plausible or rational reason for the subsidies, the real reason is laid bare — car companies want more taxpayer cash and they’ve lobbied Congress hard to get it. Mr. Musk and Tesla and others who receive the benefits of this taxpayer provided subsidy would love to extend and expand it. But that isn’t a good reason to give them more taxpayer cash or to reach into a single parent’s wallet so that some rich guy can get some help to buy that very cool electric car.
Moreover, the public doesn’t support the idea of taxpayers helping people buy expensive and trendy electrical cars. By landslide proportions, 2 in 3 Americans oppose these subsidies, and with good reason.
The truth is most people would love to receive a perpetual gift of cash. There’s an old saying, “A government that robs Peter to pay Paul can always count on the support of Paul.” That’s what we have here. Paul is in favor of Paul getting millions of dollars provided by Peter. This is clearly just based on greed.
Even more important, our constitutional system cannot devolve into a system in which one group gets to vote itself cash from another group. But that’s what we have here. Nothing more. A vote to extend, expand, or enlarge this subsidy is a grotesque violation of the public trust.
By Peter Roff • MY Journal Courier
Last month, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed new regulations that could dramatically ramp up the use of ethanol, a corn-based bio-fuel that can be blended into gasoline. That news was music to the ears of Iowa corn farmers.
But the rest of the country isn’t so pleased. A recent poll finds that more than 80 percent of voters are concerned the new policy will raise prices at the pump. And more than two-thirds think the ethanol expansion will harm their engines.
Americans are right to be alarmed. Ethanol is an expensive, environmentally hazardous fuel. The EPA’s new policy is a flagrant attempt by the Trump administration to buy the support of farmers — at huge expense to American consumers.
The EPA’s plan would lift restrictions on gasoline containing 15 percent ethanol, a blend known as E15. At the moment, the sale of E15 is banned during the summer because the fuel generates more ozone than is permitted by the Clean Air Act.
But recently, President Trump instructed the Environmental Protection Agency to begin the process of legalizing year-round E15 sales.
The president found an E15 ally in Iowa senator Chuck Grassley, chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee.
In many cases, E15 is dangerous. Roughly three-quarters of the cars on the road today weren’t built to use E15, and could be seriously damaged if forced to run on the fuel.
E15 might even harm engines that have just rolled off the line. Many prominent automotive brands — including BMW, Mercedes, Mitsubishi, Mazda and Volvo — have model-year 2018 cars that aren’t equipped to handle the fuel. Some automakers have warned drivers that filling up with E15 could be grounds for voiding their vehicles’ warranties.
The fuel is also useless for motorcycles and boats, as well as lawnmowers and other outdoor equipment.
Pushing more E15 into the market will inevitably lead to costly engine damage for Americans who mistakenly assume that this government-mandated fuel is actually safe to use.
This isn’t the only way in which E15 is a bad deal for consumers. Since ethanol contains only a third of the energy of gasoline, motorists who fill up with E15 can expect to get far fewer miles to the gallon — forcing them to fill up more often.
Ethanol was developed to be a clean-burning alternative to other fossil fuels. But ironically, it actually poses a grave threat to the environment. Over a 30-year period, the net emissions from ethanol are 28 percent higher than emissions from gasoline, according to the Clean Air Task Force. One Princeton University researcher warns ethanol’s true emissions are even higher. He estimates bio-fuels emit twice as much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as gasoline over three decades.
Ethanol proponents often argue the bio-fuel is necessary for America’s energy independence. But today, Americans already have an abundant supply of domestic, clean, low-cost fuel. Thanks to improved drilling techniques such as fracking, the country is producing historic levels of both oil and natural gas. Natural gas in particular burns far cleaner than coal, propane or gasoline. Major automakers are already designing vehicles to run on the fuel.
The president seems intent on forcing consumers to buy a costly, inefficient, environmentally damaging fuel unsuitable for most vehicles. It’s no wonder that the policy has raised a red flag with so many voters. Their concerns are more than justified. Americans deserve an energy policy that serves the country’s needs — and not the narrow interests of corn-growers.
Peter Roff is a senior fellow at Frontiers of Freedom. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.
Heller's bill is a horrible idea. Fredric Bastiat called it "legalized plunder." In contrast, Barrasso's "Fairness for Every Driver Act" is a great idea whose time has come. It is time to drain the swamp and end payouts for companies with high priced lobbyists. Barrasso deserves our praise!
Frontiers of Freedom President, George Landrith made the following statement on Senator Heller’s expansion of massive subsidies for electric vehicles and Senator Barrasso’s Fairness for Every Driver Act which would end those subsidies:
Senator Heller’s Expansion of Massive Subsidies
Senator Dean Heller (R-Nevada) introduced a bill to lift the cap on the number of electric vehicles eligible for a large $7,500 tax credit given to those who buy electric cars.
The big winners here are Elon Musk, Tesla and GM. Elon Musk is the fellow who recently was smacked down by the feds for violating the law and fined millions of dollars. I am not all sure why Elon deserves this big bonanza!
The big losers are average, everyday Americans who work hard and play by the rules and don’t have high priced lobbyists scamming the system for them. So if you’re working hard to make ends meet, or saving for your children’s future or simply wish you had a little more money at the end of the month, you should be outraged that Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle think you should be forced to help rich guys buy fancy, expensive electric sports cars.
Heller’s bill also proposes to eventually phase out the tax credit, but let’s be honest, that will be postponed and postponed so that it never actually happens. All that will remain is the greatly expanded tax credit that benefits a couple big corporations and burdens millions of taxpayers.
Heller is in a tight reelection bid and perhaps this is why. Putting the interests of big corporations ahead of the taxpayer isn’t a good longterm electoral strategy. As a purported conservative, he ought to know better. But sadly, with a Tesla plant in Nevada, he’s given in to the lobbying pressure.
The electric vehicle tax credit is a bad deal for a very simple reason. When someone buys a $70,000 to $140,000 Tesla, there is no good reason to ask lower income workers to help pay for it. If you want a fancy electric car, please feel free to buy one! But please don’t ask the rest of us to help you pay for it!
I’ve never asked anyone to help me buy a car. If I can’t afford the car I really want, I buy one I can afford. So I am not sure why it makes any sense to force millions of Americans to help relatively rich people buy expensive electric sports cars like Tesla makes. Even if the car were less expensive, why should the rest of America be forced to help them buy it using a corrupt federal tax code to effectively rob the rest of us?
I am not against electric cars. I am not against expensive electric cars. I believe if you want one and can afford one, you have every right to buy one. But what you don’t have the right to do is to get your congressman or senator to reach into my pocket and take my money to help you buy it. Yet that is exactly what Congress is promoting when it imposes the electric car tax credit on us. Shame on Congress!
Congress is engaging in what famed economist Frederic Bastiat called “legal plunder.” Simply stated, it is illegal to beat someone up and steal their money so that you can afford to buy a new car. Bastiat pointed out that rather than risk jail time, people lobby their representative to steal for you and help you buy the new car. He famously said, “Government is the great fiction, through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else.”This sort of abuse is exactly the sort of things that our Constitution was supposed to prevent. But sadly, too many on Capitol Hill, are all to happy to engage in this form of plunder if it will get them good press coverage or win them votes. But it is theft and it wrong.
In fairness, Senator Heller’s opponent Jacky Rosen (D-Nevada) will be a far worse practitioner of legal plunder than he is. If you look at her stands on the issues, it is clear that she is a big fan of what Bastiat called “legal plunder” and is committed to plundering the taxpayer every day of the week and twice on weekends.
Americans everywhere should rise up and oppose any effort to expand the electric vehicle tax credit. There is no good reason to expand it or even allow it to continue. It should be terminated immediately. The next best option would be to phase it out very quickly. But substantially expanding it while pretending to phase it out, as the Heller bill does, is doubly bad — because on top of being bad policy it is profoundly disingenuous.
Senator John Barrasso’s Fairness for Every Driver Act
This is why I am excited about the work that Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyoming) is doing with his proposed Fairness for Every Driver Act. He has proposed ending subsidies for electric vehicles. This is a big win for working-class Americans. And it shows that Senator Barrasso is a principled, public servant who committed to our constitutional heritage of limited government. It From 2011 to 2017 alone, hard working taxpayers have been forced to pay almost $5 Billion to big corporations who make electric cars. Senator Barrasso is trying to end this corrupt practice. Kudos to him!
After the election, it is expected that there will be a lame duck session. We call upon Members of Congress to support the Fairness for Every Driver Act. And we call upon Members of Congress to oppose Heller’s back door attempt to pad the pockets of Tesla and GM.
We will be watching how Congress votes and we will make sure that good votes are rewarded and that bad votes are publicized.
One of Barack Obama’s proudest boasts was his claim he’d “saved” the American auto industry during the first year of his presidency. Maybe. He certainly did a lot, some of which might have actually been helpful, to keep the doors open at General Motors and to bridge the sale of Chrysler to Fiat, but it’s not clear he did much to help Ford or any of the foreign manufacturers who build so many vehicles here in the U.S.
What he and his cohort didn’t want to talk about, then or now, is all the policies they advocated that had helped put U.S.-owned manufacturers in the fix they found themselves in. This is particularly true in the environmental arena, where rules governing the corporate average fuel economy standards did so much to compel the production of cars people didn’t want.
Requiring the auto companies to build more cars that got more miles to the gallon may seem like a good idea. In fact, it may Continue reading
The EPA announced that it will disregard the current law and rush new mandates into place before Obama leaves office.
In 2012, the Obama Administration pushed through a dramatic increase in Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards — jumping the fleet average mileage mandates to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2015. At the time, it was agreed there would be a mid-term review before 2018 to determine if the new CAFE standards were feasibly possibly in the time frame required. However, now the Obama Administration and the EPA just announced that there will be no midterm review and that intends to impose the 54.5 miles per gallon mandate regardless of the feasibility or impact. Continue reading
Frontiers of Freedom launches a major effort to stop over-criminalization — Stop Convicting Soccer Moms. Virginia criminalizes driving only 11 mph over the speed limit on Virginia’s freeways. This makes criminals of otherwise law-abiding citizens.
By Stop Convicting Soccer Moms•
George Landrith, the president of Frontiers of Freedom made the following announcement about its new, major effort — Stop Convicting Soccer Moms:
Over criminalization is a growing problem. Government at every level continues to grow larger and larger and continues to look for new things to regulate, mandate and punish. One example of this crazy over criminalization trend is in Virginia, driving in excess of 80 mph on a freeway with a 70 mph speed limit can make you a criminal and subject you to a year in jail and a criminal fine of $2,500.
Driving on an open freeway, the flow of traffic is typically somewhere between 78 and 85 miles per hour. Let that sink in — driving with the flow of traffic on a freeway can make you a criminal and you can spend up to a year in jail and receive heavy criminal fines of up to $2,500, plus thousands in legal fees. Making criminals of soccer moms for driving a little too fast is an abuse of power. Traffic fines are to be expected, but jail time and criminal fines should be out of bounds for something that virtually everyone does.
Such a law is compelling evidence of a government that no longer serves the public interest, but is instead looking to pad government coffers and advantage trial lawyers. The government should be serving and protecting law-abiding citizens — not finding new and corrupt ways to convict soccer moms of absurd so-called criminal offenses.
Frontiers of Freedom wrote on the injustice of surprising motorists with criminal charges for what most people would think is only a modest speaking ticket and within a few weeks Virginia started posting signs warning of the criminal penalties. While we are glad to get the attention of Virginia politicians, it is outrageous to criminalize simply exceeding the speed limit as virtually every driver even grandmothers and soccer moms. The law needs to be changed. We don’t need more signs warning us of an unjust and corrupt law.
We are shocked that neither Governor McAuliffe nor the state legislature has done anything to reform or fix this abusive law despite it having been raised during legislative sessions for the last several years. We call upon Governor McAuliffe and each and every Delegate and Senator to make it a top priority in the upcoming legislative session to fix this law and treat speeding as a traffic violation, not a crime.
Criminal reckless driving should not be the way we deal with simple speeding on a wide-open freeway. Reckless driving should involve some willful, wanton and clearly reckless behavior — not merely exceeding the speed limit. Courts have recognized that excessive speed alone is not a sufficient element of reckless driving. (People v. Grogan, 260 NY 138, 144, 183 NE 273, 275) Reckless driving should be determined by the facts and circumstances of the situation. For example, excessive speed in a school zone, or dangerously weaving in and out of traffic on a freeway at an excessive speed, or tailgating at an excessive speed could be reckless driving. But simply driving too fast on a wide-open freeway shouldn’t be treated as a crime. It should be a traffic violation with appropriate non-criminal fines.
There are other states all across the nation that take a similar approach and criminalize ordinary traffic violations. We ask Americans everywhere to help us stand up against over-criminalization and sign our petition at www.Change.org.
Anyone who wants more information can go to our website — www.FF.org, or go to our new website — www.StopConvictingSoccerMoms.org or to our Facebook page — Stop Convicting Soccer Moms.
Mr. Landrith is available for interviews by calling Frontiers of Freedom at 703-246-0110, ext. 302.
George Landrith, President of Frontiers of Freedom, Landrith and Tom Brown discuss the abusive law in Virginia that imposes criminal penalties for speeding more than 10 miles per hour over the freeway speed limit of 70 MPH. Landrith argues that criminalizing relatively innocent behavior that virtual every American driver has done — driving a few miles over the speed limit — is a prime example of government abuse.
George Landrith, President of Frontiers of Freedom, co-hosting the Conservative Commandoes Radio Show, broadcast from WNJC – 1360 AM in Philadelphia and around the globe on the internet. Landrith and co-host Rick Trader discuss the abusive law in Virginia that imposes criminal penalties for speeding more than 10 miles per hour over the freeway speed limit of 70 MPH. Landrith argues that criminalizing relatively innocent behavior that virtual every American driver has done — driving a few miles over the speed limit — is a prime example of government abuse.
Criminalizing ordinary highway speeding and jailing drivers for going 11 miles per hour over the limit is a grotesque abuse of power.
This summer, millions of Americans have been on road trips through the highways of Virginia. The state’s top speed limit is clearly posted at 70 miles per hour. However, what few drivers know is that driving at a speed greater than 80 miles per hour — a mere 11 miles per hour over the top speed limit — is criminal reckless driving under Virginia law. Driving on an open freeway, the flow of traffic is typically somewhere between 78 and 85 miles per hour. And yet, in Virginia (and many other states) going with the flow of traffic on an open freeway can subject you to insanely harsh criminal punishment. In Virginia, that means up to one year in jail and heavy criminal fines of up to $2,500, plus thousands in related legal fees. All across the nation, similar abuses in traffic laws exist.
Any honest driver will admit, at least to themselves, that at varying points in long freeway drives, they have driven more than 10 miles per hour over the speed limit — just driving with the natural flow of traffic or by accident. How would you feel about being stopped for driving more than 10 miles per hour over the limit while on a family vacation and not getting a ticket, but instead being hauled off to jail? Does that sound like a reasonable exercise of government power? If we keep criminalizing ordinary and small infractions that virtually every American does, soon every American can spend time in jail. This is an absurd policy. Yet, that’s the direction things are going. Continue reading
A lot has happened in the U.S. since 2007 – the last time Congress passed a substantive energy bill. The U.S. has gone from being a nation bereft of energy resources to become one of the world’s major energy producers. Because of the rapid development of our energy infrastructure, many on Capitol Hill argue that we need to modernize our energy laws. Both the House and the Senate have been working on energy bills to do just that – albeit through wildly different approaches.
The Senate bill (S. 2012) hardly qualifies as an effort at reform or change. In its 420 pages, it perpetuates the tired and failed “big government knows best, manages best, and spends taxpayer money best” approach to public policy.
Instead of eliminating wasteful subsidies and onerous mandates, the Senate bill too often goes in the opposite direction to manipulate market signals and further distort energy prices. Continue reading
By My Way News•
Oregon is about to embark on a first-in-the-nation program that aims to charge car owners not for the fuel they use, but for the miles they drive.
The program is meant to help the state raise more revenue to pay for road and bridge projects at a time when money generated from gasoline taxes are declining across the country, in part, because of greater fuel efficiency and the increasing popularity of fuel-efficient, hybrid and electric cars.
Starting July 1, up to 5,000 volunteers in Oregon can sign up to drive with devices that collect data on how much they have driven and where. The volunteers will agree to pay 1.5 cents for each mile traveled on public roads within Oregon, instead of the tax now added when filling up at the pump.
Some electric and hybrid car owners, however, say the new tax would be unfair to them and would discourage purchasing of green vehicles.
“This program targets hybrid and electric vehicles, so it’s discriminatory,” said Patrick Connor, a Beaverton resident who has been driving an electric car since 2007.
State officials say it is only fair for owners of green vehicles to be charged for maintaining roads, just as owners of gasoline-powered vehicles do.
“We know in the future, our ability to pay for maintenance and repair… will be severely impacted if we continue to rely on the gas tax,” said Shelley Snow with the Oregon Department of Transportation.
Other states are also looking at pay-per-mile as an alternative to dwindling fuel tax revenues.
Last year, California created a committee to study alternatives to the gas tax and design a pilot program; Washington state set money aside to further develop a similar program; and an Indiana bill directs the state to study alternatives and a test project.
While growing in popularity, electric vehicles and hybrids are still in the minority on American roads, even in a state as green-minded as Oregon. Of 3.3 million passenger cars registered in Oregon at the end of 2014, about 68,000 were hybrid, 3,500 electric and 620 plug-in hybrid. A decade ago, only 8,000 hybrids were registered.
However, fuel-economy for gas-powered vehicles has been increasing as technology is developed that addresses public concerns about greenhouse gas emissions and dependence on foreign oil.
Oregon is the only state to actually test-drive the pay-per-mile idea.
The gas tax provides just under half of the money in Oregon’s highway fund, and the majority of the money in the federal Highway Trust Fund, of which Oregon receives a portion.
Oregon’s share of the fuel tax over the past two decades has been mostly flat and in some years declined, state data show. In 2009, the Legislature raised the tax from 24 cents to 30 cents per gallon, but that’s not enough to avert shortfalls, state officials said, because construction costs increase with inflation.
Oregon previously held two rounds of small-scale tests involving GPS devices to track mileage.
The current program, called OreGo, will be the largest yet and will be open to all car types. Of these, no more than 1,500 participating vehicles can get less than 17 miles per gallon, and no more than 1,500 must get at least 17 miles per gallon and less than 22 miles per gallon.
Volunteers will still be paying the fuel tax if they stop for gas. But at the end of the month, depending on the type of car they drive, they will receive either a credit or a bill for the difference in gas taxes paid at the pump.
Private vendors will provide drivers with small digital devices to track miles; other services will also be offered. Volunteers can opt out of the program at any time, and they’ll get a refund for miles driven on private property and out of state.
After the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon raised concerns about privacy and government surveillance, the state built protections into the program, said ACLU’s interim executive director Jann Carson.
Drivers will be able to install an odometer device without GPS tracking.
For those who use the GPS, the state and private vendors will destroy records of location and daily metered use after 30 days. The program also limits how the data can be aggregated and shared. Law enforcement, for example, won’t be able to access the information unless a judge says it’s needed.
“This is the government collecting massive amounts of data and we want to ensure the government doesn’t keep and use that data for other purposes,” Carson said.
The OreGo program is projected to cost $8.4 million to implement and is aimed to gauge public acceptance of the idea of charging motorists per mile of road they travel. It will be up to the Legislature to decide whether to adopt a mandatory road usage charge.
One of the biggest concerns will be whether a program like OreGo could actually discourage people from buying electric or hybrid vehicles.
Drive Oregon, an advocacy group for the electric-vehicle industry, supports the program because every driver should pay for road repairs, executive director Jeff Allen said. Still, he said, “The last thing we need to do right now is to make buying electric cars more expensive or inconvenient.”
by Maggie Thurber • Daily Signal
NOT A BAN? Senate Bill 342 won’t be an outright ban on red light and speed cameras, but the effect of the provisions in the bill will, effectively, end their use.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich will sign a bill to limit how municipalities can use red light and speed cameras, said his spokesman, Rob Nichols.
“We don’t have the bill yet, so I don’t have a sense of timing,” he wrote in an email. “But the governor will sign it.” Continue reading
By Hot Air•
Imagine that. A bunch of cameras installed to increase
safety revenue by catching everyone speeding caught a whole bunch more people than they should have in New York. It’s almost as if it wasn’t about safety first:
Nassau County of New York is forgiving thousands of speeding tickets issued this summer from malfunctioning speed cameras, totaling about $2.4 million in fines.
The Long Island county executive, Edward Mangano, said cameras from Arizona-based American Traffic Solutions near six schools were unreliable and issued tickets even when school was not in session. Traffic speeds are reduced dramatically during school hours.
“I don’t have a high confidence level that the cameras were operating at statutory levels,” Mangano told Newsday Friday. “So we are declaring amnesty with all tickets issued this summer.”
People who have already paid the $80 ticket fine will receive a refund and all 30,000-plus tickets will be dismissed, Mangano said.
Good on local officials for noticing and doing something about this. But this is just the pilot for a wider program, so things ought to go swimmingly:
Doreen Delach of Bethpage received 11 tickets, totaling $880 — all arriving in her mailbox on the same day this month — for speeding in front of Plainedge Middle School, where the limit is 25 mph. Delach said she was unaware summer school was in session.
“How are we supposed to know school is in session?” asked Delach, 52. “There must be a better way to keep the public informed.”
Jacqueline Peiffer, 67, of Bethpage, who got four tickets totaling $320 at the Bethpage school, called the summer rollout “entrapment. No one in the neighborhood had any idea about this.”
Eileen Fagan, 71, of South Hempstead, agreed. Fagan said she was unaware the cameras were operating when she received four tickets outside Franklin Elementary School.
“It’s a bait and switch,” Fagan said. “They are really taking advantage of the public.”
Hey, Doreen should be able to cough up a mere $880 for her misconduct, right? Pony up, citizen.
American Traffic Solutions, based in Arizona, makes a bunch of these cameras. The company’s system also resulted in a massive ticket forgiveness in New Jersey. The company was not involved, however, in Chicago’s mischief.
The Washington Post notes that with municipalities bringing in these outside contractors, and not necessarily overseeing their work (especially as long as the money’s coming in), you can easily end up with problems. I wonder how many go unflagged:
In some cases, that can become a ‘who watches the watchmen’ sort of problem: In the case of Chicago, some red light cameras that were issuing only one or two tickets a day would suddenly start issuing dozens per day — but no one seems to have flagged it it as a potential problem.
“When you look at the data stream, it just came out and screamed at you,” says Schofer, who helped the Tribune examine the information, which he argues begs the question of why no one noticed the anomalies. Anyone with basic programming skills, he believes, could have written a simple piece of code to raise an alarm when such unusual spikes occurred.