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 Peter Roff • Washington Examiner
Everyone remembers former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s ill-advised comment that the Affordable Care Act would have to pass so that the American people could find out what was in it. Unfortunately, what should have been a cautionary tale has instead been an object lesson in rulemaking for President Obama’s bureaucracy.
Take, for example, the pending Clean Power Plan, an initiative of the Environmental Protection Agency. If fully implemented, it could lead to the mass shuttering of existing power generation facilities, rolling brownouts, blackouts and a significant increase in electrical rates. Continue reading
by Marita Noon • Breitbart News Network
Prices at the pump have gone up nearly 40 cents a gallon from the January low—60 cents in California. They will continue to rise while the price of crude oil remains low. Based on explanations, the jump was expected. Every year, at this time, refineries shut down to make adjustments from the “winter blend” to the “summer blend.” It is “refinery maintenance season.”
However this year, the increase is exacerbated. Continue reading
Executives at a Bermudan firm funneling money to U.S. environmentalists run investment funds with Russian
by Lachlan Markay • Washington Free Beacon
A shadowy Bermudan company that has funneled tens of millions of dollars to anti-fracking environmentalist groups in the United States is run by executives with deep ties to Russian oil interests and offshore money laundering schemes involving members of President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle.
One of those executives, Nicholas Hoskins, is a director at a hedge fund management firm that has invested heavily in Russian oil and gas. He is also senior counsel at the Bermudan law firm Wakefield Quin and the vice president of a London-based investment firm whose president until recently chaired the board of the state-owned Russian oil company Rosneft.
In addition to those roles, Hoskins is a director at a company called Klein Ltd. No one knows where that firm’s money comes from. Its only publicly documented activities have been transfers of $23 million to U.S. environmentalist groups that push policies that would hamstring surging American oil and gas production, which has hurt Russia’s energy-reliant economy. Continue reading
The Keystone XL pipeline is our best bet for a secure energy future.
By Peter Roff • U.S. News
It’s long overdue. The pipeline is a needed addition to the U.S. energy infrastructure that will do much to help America reduce its dependence on energy sources produced in politically volatile regions of the world. In the interim, its construction will lead to the creation of thousands of new jobs in vital industries, the kind some politicians like to call “good jobs and good wages.” Continue reading
The EPA acts as though it has the legislative authority to re-engineer the nation’s electric generating system and power grid. It does not.
by Laurence H. Tribe • The Wall Street Journal
As a law professor, I taught the nation’s first environmental law class 45 years ago. As a lawyer, I have supported countless environmental causes. And as a father and grandfather, I want to leave the Earth in better shape than when I arrived.
Nonetheless, I recently filed comments with the Environmental Protection Agency urging the agency to withdraw its Clean Power Plan, a regulatory proposal to reduce carbon emissions from the nation’s electric power plants. In my view, coping with climate change is a vital end, but it does not justify using unconstitutional means. Continue reading
by Rex Murphy • National Post
Much is being made of Barack Obama’s “deal” with China on the always parlous matter of global warming and carbon dioxide emissions. For those who still retain their enthusiasm for the lame-duck Mr. Obama and his dear love of government by decree – this is an Executive Orders President — the announcement was a milestone in the fight against our ecological doom, an historical commitment. It is also said by its supporters that the deal “shames” Canada, “isolates” us, puts us in the overcrowded villains gallery of the environmentalist movement.
Is it not a thing of wonder just what a pledge (which is merely a promise in a rented tuxedo) with the leader of the world’s largest dictatorship can do? Moreover, in the fervid atmosphere of global warming, just what constitutes a deal? What’s the give and take for both parties? Continue reading
by Kate Bachelder • Wall Street Journal
A hallmark of progressive politics is the ability to hold fervent beliefs, in defiance of evidence, that explain how the world works—and why liberal solutions must be adopted. Such political superstitions take on a new prominence during campaign seasons as Democratic candidates trot out applause lines to rally their progressive base and as the electorate considers their voting records. Here’s a Top 10 list of liberal superstitions on prominent display during the midterm election campaign:
1. Spending more money improves education. The U.S. spent $12,608 per student in 2010—more than double the figure, in inflation-adjusted dollars, spent in 1970—and spending on public elementary and secondary schools has surpassed $600 billion. How’s that working out? Adjusted state SAT scores have declined on average 3% since the 1970s, as the Cato Institute’s Andrew Coulson found in a March report.
No better news in the international rankings: The Program for International Student Assessment reports that in 2012 American 15-year-olds placed in the middle of the pack, alongside peers from Slovakia—which shells out half as much money as the U.S. per student.
Someone might mention this to North Carolina Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan, who is knocking State House Speaker Thom Tillis for cutting $500 million from schools. Per-pupil K-12 spending has increased every year since Mr. Tillis became speaker in 2011, and most of what Ms. Hagan is selling as “cuts” came from community colleges and universities, not the local middle school. Mr. Coulson’s Cato study notes that North Carolina has about doubled per-pupil education spending since 1972, which has done precisely nothing for the state’s adjusted SAT scores. Continue reading
by Tom Steward • Daily Signal
Nothing strikes fear into developers and property owners more than a new critter on the federal list of endangered species.
Case in point: The northern long-eared bat, found in 39 states. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service probably will place it on the list in April.
The logging industry is worried.
“The economic loss to the entire state of Michigan would be devastating, if timber harvesting were to be restricted to the winter months in their habitat area,” said Brenda Owen, executive director of the Michigan Association of Timbermen. “This is not a viable solution to the bat’s decline, and it’s never a solution that the Timbermen would stand by and let happen.” Continue reading
by Ernest Istook • Washington Times
Crony capitalism plans are so lucrative for a select few that they are hard to kill. Those who get rich make generous campaign contributions, hire lobbyists and run massive public relations propaganda campaigns, using the billions of our tax dollars that they receive.
One “temporary” measure — the wind-energy production tax credit (PTC) — has received eight “temporary” extensions since 1992 and now backers want to add several years more. After 20 years of soaking taxpayers for billions of dollars in subsidies and raising electric bills, it’s overdue for the PTC to end. It expired at the end of 2013, yet some lawmakers want to give it new life, plus an additional $18 billion, during the postelection lame-duck session of Congress. Continue reading
by Peter Roff • The Hill
Some of solar energy’s more persuasive advocates have some people believing the age of free, homegrown electricity is just around the corner. Of course they had folks believing that in the 1970s, back when Jimmy Carter put solar panels on the White House and wore a sweater when the weather started to cool.
The basic fact, as true today as it was then, is that solar energy – like many of the so-called green energy alternatives to oil, to coal, to natural gas, and to nuclear power – is too expensive for most consumers to utilize unless accompanied by generous subsidies at just about every level of the process.
Some solar panels are manufactured by companies that have received direct subsidies or loan guarantees from the federal government — and if those companies fail (remember Solyndra) the taxpayers are the ones who make it possible for the investors to recoup the money they put at risk. Continue reading
by Alex B. Berezow • RealClearScience
World events have made it quite clear to most Americans that we should develop more of our own energy sources. Reducing our reliance on foreign oil by exploiting the natural gas under our feet is not only smart foreign policy but also smart environmental policy: Natural gas burns cleaner than coal or oil, and it has already lowered our CO2 emissions. Natural gas is a win for America and the planet.
But not according to anti-technology environmentalists, who have made all sorts of wild, unsubstantiated claims about the supposed harms of fracking. Three claims in particular are worth examining: (1) Fracking causes a dangerous leakage of methane into drinking water; (2) Fracking causes earthquakes; and (3) Fracking chemicals contaminate drinking water. Continue reading
by Seth Lipsky • New York Post
There are three ways something can become what the US Constitution calls the “supreme law of the land.” It can be made part of the Constitution by amendment, it can be passed by Congress as a law or it can be ratified by the Senate as a treaty.
President Obama can’t get his climate-change agreement made supreme law of the land by any of those constitutional routes. Not even close. The Republican House doesn’t want it. The Democratic Senate won’t act.
That’s because the people don’t want it. They’re no dummies. Even in drought-stricken California, the Hill newspaper reports, Democratic candidates for Congress avoid the climate-change issue.
This is driving Obama crazy. Continue reading
by John Stossel • Fox News
Thanks, Environmental Protection Agency! You’ve required sewage treatment plants, catalytic converters on cars and other things that made the world cleaner than the world in which I grew up. Good work.
Today, America’s waterways are so much cleaner that I swim in New York City’s once-filthy Hudson River — right beside skyscrapers in which millions of people, uh, flush. The air we breathe is also cleaner than it’s been for 60 years.
In a rational world, environmental bureaucrats would now say, “Mission accomplished. We set tough standards, so we don’t need to keep doing more. Stick a fork in it! We’re done.”
OK, I went too far. America does still need some bureaucrats to enforce existing environmental rules and watch for new pollution problems. But we don’t need what we’ve got: 16,000 environmental regulators constantly trying to control more of our lives. EPA should stand for: Enough Protection Already. Continue reading