Pols preen in green… and we pay

Last week the Patrick/Murray Administration announced plans to fund installation of 142 electric vehicle charging stations around the Commonwealth.  Marsha Traber of Lexington, for one, is “totally excited.”  She owns an electric scooter, you see, which she’d like to use to “tool around the Lexington area,” but to-date she has been limited in her tooling due to her vehicle’s “short range.”

The other 99.999999999% of the population – those of us who neither own nor wish to own electric vehicles unless/until the associated technology and cost catch up with politicians’ lofty aspirations – can be forgiven for wondering if this roll-out is the very best use of funds at a time when government at all levels is supposedly cutting “to the bone.”

My intellectual betters in the government point out that there is a “chicken and egg” problem faced by proponents of electric vehicles.  Specifically, people won’t buy EVs – with their short per charge range – if there aren’t widely-available places to plug in.  Says state assistant transportation secretary Maeve Bartlett, “We want to have a public investment so that once these vehicles come on the market, it’s going to be easy for people to find a charging station – it’s not going to be an impossibility… We want a rollout of electric vehicles to be successful, and publicly available charging stations can enable that.”  Those aspirations again.  Why wait for technological innovation to create a natural market incentive when spending taxpayer dollars to force the issue is so much quicker? Certainly EV manufacturers must appreciate the state’s largesse.

Runs on premium taxpayer dollars

So about those dollars.  According to the Globe, each charging station will cost approximately $5,500 to install.  Of course that is a government estimate.  Applying the standard government inefficiency multiplier to the estimate yields a final cost per unit of approximately $1,237,654.47.  But let’s stick with the initial estimate of $5,500 for kicks.

That’s a total cost of $781,000.  Readers of this blog might remember that back in April the Herald reported that Boston was spending around a million bucks on nineteen road signs, so the notion that government is going to bring in the installation of seven times as many vehicle charging stations for $780K strains credulity to say the least, but suspend disbelief and stick with me.

The Patrick/Murray Administration says the stations will be paid for in part by using “a $280,000 settlement in a pollution case that Attorney General Martha Coakley’s office obtained in 2007.”  Found money!  And lord knows we could never come up with another, more productive use for $300K. So far, so good.  The balance will be paid by “ChargePoint Network, run by California-based station maker Coulomb Technologies Inc.”  When I first read that part I was relieved.  If the bulk of the project cost is to be paid by the company that makes these charging stations, then great.  A private sector company investing in the infrastructure necessary to grow its market.  But then I read further.  It seems the ChargePoint Network is funded by – guess what! – federal “stimulus dollars.”  So more taxpayer dollars, pulled from a different pocket.

All of this is part of the Patrick/Murray Administration’s “Preen Initiative” – er, I mean “Green Initiative” – the animating principle of which seems to be that any expenditure of public funds, no matter how impractical or implausible the stated goal, is justified so long as that goal can be plausibly labeled “green.” The pols feel good, some idealistic college students feel good.  One just can’t put a price tag on that much feelin’ good.

In this case, we taxpayers are going to foot the bill to install roughly a dozen electric vehicle charging stations for each of the Commonwealth’s electric vehicle owners.

Okay, I made that up… READ THE REST at CriticalMASS

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