Is it fair or appropriate for governments to play favorites, using laws and regulations to benefit certain industries and disadvantage others? Most of us would instinctively oppose such measures, arguing that the iron realities of the market should determine winners and losers.
During the last session, Gov. Jared Polis and the Democrat-controlled Colorado Legislature joined forces to enact several measures that support buyers and manufacturers of electrically powered vehicles.
One of the bills (HB19-1159) extends a substantial state tax credit given to electric vehicle purchasers, while another (SB19-77) allows Xcel Energy to build rate-based charging stations around the state, effectively spreading out the cost among all of its customers — not just the electrified aristocrats who use them.
I’d love to be one of those lordly folk, but my bank account tells me I ought to stick with my humble 2002 Nissan Xterra. And speaking of lordly, how about this press release from His Excellency?
“Progress towards transitioning to 100% renewable energy by 2040: Improving our air quality and taking action on climate change won’t just help preserve our beautiful lands, ecosystems, and water — it will power our economy. Our plans to completely transition to clean energy will save you money, create new green jobs, and protect our way of life,” Polis has said.
In theory, I should be mad at Polis and his lib’rul legislative cabal. Shouldn’t they be making life easier for the gas-guzzling multitudes, especially for those of us whose battered rides have 185,000 miles on the odometer?
Nope, I’m not. In the past, American governments at every level have done their best to ease the way for new industries, new technologies and new ways of delivering vital services.
Remember the dawn of the internet in the 1990s, when online companies took their first tentative steps? Despite objections from brick-and-mortar retailers, state and local governments left them alone. Collecting sales taxes would be awkward and difficult, so why not just leave the feisty little newcomers alone? Best to wait and see — and c’mon, they’re not making any money, especially that little Seattle bookstore.
It’s clear today that the transportation industry is undergoing radical change. Driven by rapidly evolving technology, climate change, shifting consumer preferences, ride-sharing and the advent of autonomous vehicles, the future seems uncertain and perilous. There will be winners and losers, but we can’t stand pat.
Polis is making a reasonable bet, although it will be expensive to fund and difficult to cash in on. Creating green electrified surface transportation in Colorado will require massive private investments in storage, vehicle range, charging stations and electric generation. Coal-fired power stations will disappear, and we may have to look seriously at nuclear.
You can call such a state-supported push government overreach at its worst, but Colorado Springs wouldn’t exist had it not been for hefty government subsidies.
In 1870, Colorado Springs founder Gen. William Palmer was busy assembling land in the Pikes Peak region. Federal lands could be acquired for a price, but Palmer figured out how to game the system. He acquired Agricultural College scrip, issued to states that had no federal lands within their borders to support the construction of agricultural colleges. Too much had been issued, and scrip had could be bought for the equivalent of 80 cents an acre. The canny Palmer acquired a total of 9,312.27 acres, including the 2,000-acre original town site, almost all with scrip.
Not a bad deal at all, especially since the feds had recently discontinued the railroad subsidies that might have helped Palmer’s Denver & Rio Grande Railroad.
Beginning with the Louisiana Purchase, successive governments sought to support and enable western expansion, always concentrating on transportation and communication. Railroads, state and interstate highways, airports telegraph and telephone systems, television, the internet and now social media have benefited from government largesse.
Polis’ vision is as large, unlikely and even exhilarating as those that animated our forebears.
Will it work? Is it practical? Shouldn’t we just sit tight, burn gasoline and let other folks figure out the future?
That worked out really well for the industrial Midwest, didn’t it?
If you don’t seize the day, someone else will. Jared seems to know what he’s doing — didn’t he make a few bucks with a business on that internet thing? Let’s hope he hasn’t lost his touch…