Road trip to fantasy land: Why does Obama keep pumping money into electric cars?

March 8, 2012 12:01 am

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By contrast, even state-of-the-art batteries deliver far less energy than gas, in a far bigger package. A Volt can go 35 miles on a single charge of its 435-pound battery. This sounds like a big deal until you realize that a gas-engine Chevy Cruze gets 42 miles per gallon -- and costs half as much as a Volt.

It costs a fortune to pump, refine and ship crude oil. Yet even accounting for all that, gas-powered cars are a better value than electric vehicles and will be for some time. Gas savings on the Volt would take nine years at $5 per gallon to offset its higher price over the Cruze, an analysis found last month.

Gas consumption creates "negative externalities" -- instability in the Middle East, carbon emissions -- not fully reflected in its price. But another fact about electric vehicles is that their juice comes from the fossil-fuel-burning grid in the first place.

Oh, and how are you supposed to resell your electric vehicle once you've driven it five years and the battery is depleted?

Advocates insist that the government should help them crank up mass production of electric vehicles. Once economies of scale kick in, they argue, electric vehicles can compete.

Four decades after the 1973 oil crisis, this logic is wearing thin. Any company that figured out how to build a practical mass-market electric car would be swimming in cash. That no one has done so suggests we are bumping up against the limits of nature, not just politics or economics.

Certainly the many hundreds of millions of dollars that the U.S. government, GM and GM's competitors have poured into the effort might have been better spent on more plausible energy-efficiency efforts, such as advanced internal combustion engines.

Instead, Big Government and Big Business have focused on the Volt, the Fisker Karma or the Tesla Roadster, none of which is remotely affordable for the "99 percent" of Americans. And yet in his 2013 budget, Mr. Obama proposes to boost the tax credit for electric vehicle buyers to $10,000.

What's "progressive" about that, I'll never understand.

First Published 2012-03-07 23:40:51

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