Religion & Liberty Online

Government-Coerced Electric Car Demand

Electric-Car-BatteriesWhen progressive elites discover that the average free-thinking American does not live according to their sanctified vision for our lives, they will resort to using the power of government to coerce the rest of us into doing what they want. For example, currently there is virtually no market for electric cars because not many consumers want them. However, this fact means nothing to elite progressive in government. The elites have decided that we should be driving electric vehicles regardless of what consumers want. So eight states are now collaborating to use various government measures to “encourage” the use of these vehicles that few people are interested in owning.

The New York Times reports that California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont, which represent more than a quarter of the national car market, said they would:

seek to develop charging stations that all took the same form of payment, simplify rules for installing chargers and set building codes and other regulations to require the stations at workplaces, multifamily residences and at other places.

They said they would also promote hydrogen fueling stations, presuming that fuel-cell cars become more widely available. And they said they would promote “time of use” electric rates that would allow charging at off-peak prices, and expand incentives like high-occupancy lane access and reduced tolls and preferential parking. The states also said they would buy electric cars for their own fleets, and in some cases encourage their municipalities to do the same.

Among the measures proposed are arbitrary privileges including reduced tolls, lower utility rates, preferential municipal parking, and carpool lane permission for electric vehicles. The proposal would also require property owners to install chargers. The article notes that these additional measures will not “cost governments much” but no one seems to be aware that such initiatives cost businesses and consumers. A progressive is likely not to care about the additional costs that arbitrary regulations pass on to the rest of us. Deborah L. Markowitz, the secretary of Vermont’s Agency of Natural Resources, said the government actions were an attempt “to move the market beyond early adopters.” In other words, it is government’s role to act in the marketplace to get consumers to do things that the elites have decided we all need to do.

Building codes and regulations, not consumer demand, are supposed to encourage America to arrive at the goal President Obama set in 2011 saying, “With more research and incentives, we can break our dependence on oil with biofuels, and become the first country to have a million electric vehicles on the road by 2015.” The one glaring problem with this vision, again, is that the American people are not interested. Electric vehicles comprise only 1.23 percent of car sales and, thanks to government pressure (especially those bailed out by Congress), automakers have produced more vehicles than consumers want, so automakers are now slashing prices. According to the Times article, General Motors is likely to cut the price of the Volt by $5,000 moving forward.

I wonder if progressives have ever considered that the best way to drive demand for electric vehicles is by a culture where individuals arrive at their own virtuous conclusions, rather than by the tyranny of building codes and regulations that create waves of negative externalities for years to come.

Anthony Bradley

Anthony B. Bradley, Ph.D., is distinguished research fellow at the Acton Institute and author of The Political Economy of Liberation: Thomas Sowell and James Cone on the Black Experience.