Subsidizing an Industry and Clearing the Air; What’s Not To Like, Mr. Corbett?

Posted by By at 27 March, at 07 : 03 AM Print

California has a suggestion for Pennsylvania: use some money won from companies which have harmed Pennsylvanians’ health – tobacco money comes quickest to mind – to improve the health of the aforementioned residents.

Help support electric cars, for instance, in a public-private partnership that offers something more than tax breaks to petroleum fuel producers.

The Golden State has won $120 million from resolution of a power crisis a decade ago, in which companies such as Enron shut down power plants to create electricity pseudo-shortages and drive up consumer prices.

Now California intends to use $100 million of the money to help a company build electric car charging networks in densely populated areas such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego and the San Joaquin Valley – areas that could benefit from a reduction in gasoline-powered vehicles that daily are stuck in barely rolling traffic jams, replenishing any smog the sea winds might have blown away.

The remaining $20 million reportedly will benefit programs to lower consumer electricity costs.

In Pennsylvania, Gov. Tom Corbett wants to place money from the state’s tobacco settlement into the General Fund, where it can be spent on … lots of things his constituents want, or think they want, especially if what they want involves burning fossil fuels.

I’ll admit all-electric cars are not, at least so far, a solution for a family going on a road trip from Gettysburg to visit Aunt Sally in Myrtle Beach. They are expensive, and most do not go far on a charge. The Nissan Leaf, for instance …

With a starting price of about $35,000 for its electric-only Leaf, Nisan cautions “speed, topography, load, and accessory use can significantly affect the estimated 100 mile range of the Nissan LEAF™.” So if, like many people in my home county, I drive 35 miles to a job in one of the surrounding cities, I need to recharge it at home every day. Longer trips add at least an hour every hundred miles to the travel time while I stop to refill the batteries.

That is, of course, only if I’m on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, where the state has approved a vendor to install 17 charging stations along the more than 400-mile route.

If we really want to clear the air, we need the charging stations in Harrisburg, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre – cities where huge numbers of commuters go every day for work, and sit in traffic jams to and from, spewing noxious, atmosphere-warming effluent into the air.

What if we took some of that tobacco money and created an incentive program that would help a few companies build those charging stations.

What if companies offered the charging stations as a benefit to their employees? I’ll wager that would be cheaper than increasing wages or travel allowances to cover $6 a gallon gasoline.

What if we required permits for gasoline powered vehicles entering those cities, and allow the little four-passenger electric vehicles to enter the city free? That would encourage car rental and car sharing companies such as ZipCar, or a local ride-share service, to set up and pay taxes as a city-based business.

Many people defend their right to drive as big a vehicle as they wish. No argument here. But if their choice fouls the air they share with thousands, maybe millions, of their fellow citizens, they should pick up some of the tab for the damage done.

I did not favor making smoking illegal, and I don’t support making gas hogs illegal.

On the other hand, there is nothing wrong with creating enticements for riding to work in a 15-passenger van or a four-passenger electric car – and saving the big boat- and people-haulers for the weekend.

California has a plan to make that happen. Maybe there is a lesson in it for Pennsylvania.

Photo by WSDOT

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This post was written by:
- who has written 169 posts for Rock The Capital
John Messeder is an award winning journalist with more than 35 years experience writing about education, environment and local government issues. He has lived in Maine, Florida, California and Alaska, and, by temporary turns, numerous places in between. John also is an accomplished photographer, and avid hiker, conservationist, oral history buff, and author of several books he has not yet got 'round to writing. He lives in Adams County, Pa., just over a hill from Gettysburg, with his wife and Golden Retriever. He may be contacted at john@JohnMesseder.com - Email jmesseder

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