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.
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.
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.
The US tax code taxes diesel fuel at one rate and taxes the ultra clean burning and domestically produced liquified natural gas at a rate that is 70% higher. This should be corrected!
The United States is now the largest producer of natural gas in the world. This is a positive development and will help us reliably and inexpensively heat our homes, power our economy, and fuel our vehicles. Moreover, it will reduce our dependence on unreliable foreign sources of energy.
Despite this good news, there is a bit of bad news. When natural gas is liquified and used as a transpiration fuel, our tax policy puts it at a huge disadvantage as compared to diesel fuel. We tax diesel at one rate and then tax the ultra clean burning and domestically produced liquified natural gas (LNG) at a rate that is 70% higher than diesel fuel based on its energy content. This is counter productive and disincentivizes the use of a reliable domestic energy resource.
Our tax policy should not be picking winners and losers and it shouldn’t be favoring one source of energy while penalizing another. Yet, that is precisely what the current tax code does to LNG and propane.
Some in the House and the Senate want to reduce the taxes on LNG and propane so that they are equalized with the taxes on diesel fuel. This amounts to a tax cut for LNG and propane so that it is taxed a the same rate as diesel fuel based on its energy content, rather than at substantially higher rates. We strongly support such a tax cut!
The Senate plan to extend federal funding for transportation projects into the summer of 2015 includes this important tax fairness and equalization provision. It is also an important economic growth provision. While we cannot support every measure within the Senate highway bill, this is a provision that we believe should be included in the final bill. It is fair. And it will help the economy grow because it will remove an arbitrary tax penalty and a counterproductive tax disincentive on an important homegrown energy resource.
We call upon the House to compromise by including this tax reduction and tax fairness provision in their highway transportation bill. We also call upon Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to be willing to compromise with the House on the final bill and allow the legislative process to proceed. In our estimation, the House transportation bill has a great deal to recommend it. But by taking the strengths of the House bill and the Senate bill, we will end up with a better outcome.
Editors Note: When George W. Bush was the president, when gas prices increased, the mainstream media howled about the price increases, price gouging, and windfall profits. The Democratically controlled Congress held hearings on the matter. The public was reminded constantly that Bush and VP Dick Cheney were former “oil men” and the high prices were their fault and for the benefit of their influential friends. Now, with gas prices at historically high levels, the press is largely silent and when they do report the new higher prices, they do not blame the president or his policies. In fact, they blame world events without mentioning any of President Obama’s anti-energy policies. This is just one more proof that the mainstream media is not only biased, but is largely corrupt and dishonest. While that is not a new development, it is good to be reminded why the mainstream media is so widely distrusted.
Expect to pay more at the pump. Conflicts in Iraq have substantially caused gas to go up.
Marcus Washington reports right now gas prices are at a six year high for early summer.
As a projected 41 million people hit the road during this Fourth of July weekend, experts say get ready to pay more at the pump.
“Both nationally and in Maryland, the average today is $3.68 a gallon. That’s up two cents from a week ago nationally. And here in Maryland, it’s up about three cents,” said Ragina Cooper-Averella, AAA Mid-Atlantic.
The rising price of gas is a direct reflection of conflict in Iraq. Analysts are now focused on the militant uprising in the country, where America gets a large percentage of its oil supply.
“So far, with most of the fighting occurring in the northern region of Iraq, we have not seen any disruptions in the southern region, which is where a majority of the oil is produced in that country,” Averella said.
This summer it’s expected that most drivers will pay some of the highest prices at the pump since 2008, when the national average of gas rose to $4.10 a gallon.
“They closed at $107.26 a barrel on Friday, which is really high. And unfortunately, if the conflict continues, we’ll continue to see crude oil prices rise as well as gas prices,” said Averella.
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This news article appeared at the website of CBS Baltimore.
According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) there were over 5.3 million vehicle crashes in 2011 that resulted in 2.2 million injuries and about 32,000 deaths.
What if it was possible to prevent up to 80 percent of those crashes simply by incorporating a few new pieces of technology into automobiles? Driver assisted vehicles boast both the ability to increase road safety (by electronically calculating the potential road safety hazards better than a human driver) and to potentially drive themselves, freeing the vehicle operator to focus on other tasks. To the outside observer, it would seem an easy conclusion that American automobile consumers would want to see the expansion of driver assisted vehicles in the upcoming years.
But underlying the proposed safety and lifestyle benefits of driver assisted and driverless vehicles are serious privacy and personal liberty concerns (the ability by the government or a third party to track where you are driving, digitized limits on vehicle speed, etc.) that need to be addressed before the public will be comfortable backing widespread adoption. As the automobile industry seeks to expand driver assisted and driverless vehicle technology the balance between safety and privacy concerns are an automotive freedom issue that industry American public will have to grapple with for some time.
As early as 1939 American engineers were developing driverless vehicles and the road systems on which they would travel. While the technology was not ready then, it is now at the point where science meets fiction. At a recent House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee hearing, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Administrator David Strickland said his agency will “decide this year whether to further advance” vehicle-to-vehicle communications technology “through regulatory action, additional research, or a combination of both.”
Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V) technology enables driver assisted and even autonomous driving. Central to this technology is a “black box,” a computer that interacts with sensors throughout an automobile to control functions such as speed and direction, and also communicates with other vehicles to avoid collisions. V2V technology has the potential to reduce collisions by as much as 80% and according to Administrator Strickland’s testimony “will give drivers information needed to make safe decisions on the road that cameras and radars just cannot provide.”
While full vehicle automation is still several years down the road, in the short term V2V technology will be a marginal improvement over current sensor technology, which assists with blind spots, braking and lane drifting. One of the first true V2V technologies adopted could be an adaptive cruise control that would automatically adjust a vehicle’s speed to maintain a safe driving distance. This has the potential to increase lane capacity, reduce collisions and improve fuel economy by up to 20 percent. The benefits of driverless vehicles also extend beyond increased safety and could offer increased mobility to disadvantaged populations, such as senior citizens and the disabled.
V2V technology has the potential to alter more than just the way we drive. It also has the potential to alter the way driving is taxed. Currently motorists fund the majority of road infrastructure through a series of state and federal gasoline excise taxes. The federal tax, set at 18.4 cents/gallon, has not been increased since 1993. This has resulted in a structural deficit in the Highway Trust Fund of roughly $15 billion.
The advent of more fuel-efficient vehicles coupled with a tax that some argue has not kept up with inflation, has sparked discussions on how to reform the taxes used to fund transportation projects in order to rebuild crumbling road infrastructure. Some advocates for reform argue that the excise tax should be replaced with a miles traveled tax that could be calculated and tracked by the same black-box type device that would enables motorist-assisted and autonomous driving.
While paying by the mile driven may be a fairer way to tax road use, it also illustrates many of the privacy concerns V2V communications systems present. As with income taxes, some individuals would likely try to tamper with their devices to reduce their tax burden. In 2011, the IRS identified roughly two million tax returns that were fraudulent, leading to an increase in audits and other agency actions. Other black boxes may simply malfunction. Like the IRS a government agency could easily be deemed necessary to ensure the integrity of the mileage tax. As a result, it is not difficult to envision a scenario where vehicles equipped with V2V technology would be subjected to regular, perhaps even weekly or monthly black box inspections.
There are additional privacy concerns that the government admits must be addressed before the V2V technology is more widely adopted. According to a November 2013 GAO report, one of the greatest challenges facing the development of V2V technology is establishing “technical specifications for a system that attempts to maintain users’ privacy while providing security for over the air transmission of data.”
Any technology that can upload mileage information to the government could also used to determine and regulate a variety of other factors. The radio system underpinning V2V technology broadcasts a number of different data points including “a vehicle’s latitude, longitude, time, heading angle, speed, lateral acceleration, longitudinal acceleration, yaw rate, throttle position, brake status, steering angle, headlight status, turn signal status, vehicle width, vehicle mass, bumper height and the number of occupants in the vehicle.” In theory, the government could use this information to not only determine your location and perhaps limit the speed you can drive, but third-party companies such as automobile insurers, could increase premiums based on the information regarding driving habits or law enforcement could use the information find fault in accidents or in criminal investigations and to issue remote tickets for traffic violations.
For example, in 2011, the New York Times reported that Timothy Murray, the then Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts was involved in a car accident with his government issued vehicle. Mr. Murray initially claimed that he was wearing his seat belt and was not speeding. When the police checked the on-board computer the state has installed to monitor the vehicle, it was discovered that he was driving 100 mph and was not wearing a seat belt. As a result Mr. Carney, who claims he was asleep at the wheel, was issued a $555 ticket.
A continuous connection between your vehicle and a network could also pose a threat to how and when you drive. Eric Peters of the National Motorists Association recently reported on the Ford MyKey system and its broader applications across a fleet of smart vehicles. One of the things most striking to the author was an icon within the speedometer that uses GPS location to constantly inform the driver of a road’s given speed limit. The vehicle, through certain administrator privileges has the ability to set a maximum speed. By wedding these two technologies, the author contends that in the near future cars may be programmed to never exceed the speed limit on a given road. Peters also believes that a centralized control technology means “cars could also simply be turned off, individually (as when you haven’t paid a fine or done some other thing to incur the government’s displeasure) or en masse — in the event of some ‘national emergency.’”
As with many new technologies, there are significant advantages to be realized but also serious concerns that must be addressed. That is why automotive freedom and consumer choices are an important component to the proper development of V2V technology.
When considering the adoption of V2V vehicles two very different scenarios are possible. In one scenario, the government could promote V2V technology the way they have with fuel economy standards, through a command and control approach that has shunned new technologies like turbo engines, which could increase fuel economy without sacrificing performance. Instead, government regulations have forced companies to manufacture lighter and smaller vehicles, effectively restricting consumer choice.
In a second scenario, private industry rises to meet a market demand, absent of government mandates. This is true of antilock brakes, which were organically created to address a safety issue, and have since evolved into a standard feature on most vehicles. When left with a choice, the consumer benefits most from the market leading innovation and responding to demand. This is in essence, the heart of automotive freedom.
Vehicle to vehicle technology and its eventual path to autonomous driving has the potential to be one of the most consequential technologies of this generation, but public acceptance is contingent upon the fact that performance meets expectations and privacy concerns are addressed. This is why automotive freedom is such an important component of V2V expansion. Motorists should be vigilant as this technology develops to ensure that the proper balance of both performance and personal liberty is achieved.
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Travis Korson is the Communications Director for Frontiers of Freedom, a think tank with a mission to promote free markets, limited government and free enterprise. Visit them at www.ff.org to learn more about their automotive freedom project.
The U.S. Supreme Court decided this week to look at a case that has the potential to shorten the ever-expanding reach of the Environmental Protection Agency.
Justices agreed to weigh in on the case brought by the state of Texas, and joined by 11 other states including Oklahoma. At the heart of the matter is whether the EPA has the authority under the federal Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from sources such as power plants.
A 2007 Supreme Court ruling allowed the agency to regulate carbon dioxide from “mobile sources” such as automobiles. Under the Obama administration, the EPA has passed rules to apply those regulations to “stationary sources” such as new or expanding industrial facilities. A separate piece of the Clean Air Act already covers those sources.
Pollution limits were set by Congress when it wrote the Clean Air Act, which became law in 1970. The EPA rewrote the thresholds as they related to greenhouse gases, despite not having that authority. The agency sees the limits as workable, but as The Wall Street Journal noted, the rule “could cost the economy $300 billion to $400 billion a year.”
Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt applauded the high court’s decision. “The states have the experience, expertise and ability to regulate environmental issues, and Congress clearly intended for the states to have primacy in this area and for the EPA to work closely with the states to regulate these issues,” Pruitt said. “However, the EPA is attempting to usurp the role of the states all in the name of imposing this administration’s anti-fossil fuels agenda.”
The EPA under this administration has expanded its rules to crack down on any number of entities it finds offensive, particularly those of the non-green variety. The Supreme Court’s willingness to take the case is encouraging. A rebuke from the court would be welcomed.
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This op-ed article was written by the editorial board of the Oklahoman newspaper.