Monday, April 14, 2014

Debate: Electric Cars, Solar Panels, and the Government

As we've mentioned last Friday, independent entrepreneurs are seeking innovative ways to permanently free all of us from the power grip and expensive prices related to motor vehicle fuel and electrical power, something all of us should support. If clean innovative products like all-electrical vehicles and solar panels become more abundant and affordable, they will become the norm. Should that happen, the benefits are tremendous. The Earth will be much cleaner and basically smog-free, the economy will get a much-needed boost, and the big oil oligopoly, OPEC and Southern California Edison would all be put into positions where they have to compete, innovate and lower prices. Same goes for the car companies. That's it. That's the reality.

As mentioned, the national economy and the marketplace jobs that go with it will see a long-overdue recovery as all of us will have more cash in our pockets. Working salaries will be higher simply because companies will actually need to hire workers to handle the increased demands. We will no longer be slaves to big oil or outrageous gas prices during a soft economy. Obviously, a robust market economy combined with sound fiscal government spending will ensure that our transit and infrastructure systems are fully funded and paid for.

With such innovations taking place, there will be some policy changes that the governments will need to debate in the pubic forums. We've received some constructive ideas from our readers and the public over the weekend. Here are some debatable ideas that were brought up:

Electric Cars and Traffic Congestion
  • The fact remains that many commuters elect to carpool or take transit simply to dodge high gas prices. With the gas price issue now out of the question, there will be a reality of a decline in carpooling should clean electric cars become the norm. Incentives to rideshare in these new and clean cars will need to be revisited simply because electric cars do not solve the issue of traffic congestion.
  • Campaigns to rideshare, take transit, or join an HOV should focus on bypassing traffic congestion in carpool lanes and dodging parking fees at large hubs and urban centers.
  • Since clean cars would be the norm, solo drivers of such vehicles should no longer be allowed to drive in the carpool lane. Exceptions would be motorcycles and solo drivers willing to toll themselves in high occupancy tolled express lanes.
  • For corridors with carpool lanes that are just as slow as the general purpose lanes during peak-congestion like the 91 freeway through Corona, officials should revisit carpool lane usage policies. Should it be determined that raising the occupancy requirement to 3+ is necessary, a strong marketing campaign to form 3+ carpools and all-day express transit services need to be implemented to offset 2-person carpool displacement issues. In the case of the 91, the single 2+ carpool lane will be part the 91 Express Lanes, dual 3+ HOT lanes each way with all vehicles needing a FasTrak transponder.
  • As a further incentive to join an HOV, the 91 Express Lanes and all other high occupancy toll lanes need to support free non-transponder carpooling. That is, 2+ carpools (3+ for the 91 Express Lanes 24/7 and El Monte Busway during peak hours) would be able to get on for free and go without having to pre-register for a FasTrak. The evidence is overwhelming where HOT lanes that support this policy carry more high occupancy vehicles than toll-paying solos. Let's get the 91 Express Lanes bond debt paid off and move forward--We're paying record gas taxes; so we have the cash!
  • Car-sharing companies should be provided incentives to set up shop adjacent to receiving transit hubs. That will give people an option to rideshare or take transit for the long-haul but need affordable access to a car for the day.
The New Inventions, Safety and the Environment
  • As solar technology and electric motor vehicles evolve, the federal government will need to review existing and explore new basic safeguards to ensure the new inventions do not create an electrical fire hazard nor expose the end-user to the risk of electric shock, especially during a traffic collision or natural disaster. The rules must be efficient, streamlined, and not obstruct innovation or robust competition, but they must protect the safety of the end-user.
  • The feds should also continue to provide incentives to the private sector to develop these clean alternative energy sources and efficient electrical engines with strong horsepower for larger vehicles.
  • Incentives should be provided to entrepreneurs to research and develop clean ways to store the electrical charge. These clean batteries would have no environmentally harmful chemicals and be made in a way where every component can be cleanly recycled or re-purposed after its lifespan. The units must not expose the user to any electrical or explosive hazards in the event of an accident or disaster. Innovators have managed to do this for computer data storage.
  • The feds should be very cautious regarding direct subsidies for such innovation. We cannot afford a repeat of the Solyndra scandal.
Gas Taxes: Federal & State Transportation Funding
  • Even though we are currently paying record gas taxes, as cleaner, gas-free cars make their way into the marketplace and become the norm, the fuel tax fund at the state and federal level will eventually dry out. That's a reality.
  • No more excuses on this point: The state has got to get public works infrastructure costs down to match the market rates. No more government waste or excessive spending with our transportation money. If the labor unions want to maintain the status-quo, support policies that will get California's economy and private sector job market robust to match the public works costs and wages. That's it.
  • Future federal and state transportation tax revenue would come out of general tax receipts. Economists would be tasked to calculate and predict how much money citizens are saving by not having to pay the outrageous gas prices and high electric bills. They would be tasked to find out how much more money is going into other sectors in the market economy in the form of increased spending sales, jobs, and interest from savings and figure out how much more tax revenue the government is collecting through these means. That figure would be used to calculate a fair and just percentage of general tax receipts that would be purposed toward surface transportation and transit infrastructure.
Got any more ideas that need to be debated? Post them to the comments.

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