Friday, February 25, 2011

Follow-Ups

A couple of quick follow-ups to recent posts:

I told the story yesterday of how, during my morning walk, I counted 14 city employees in the park, and only 1 was actually doing something. Today I walked along the same route. There were 10 city employees present, and 4 of them were being productive. Well, sort of.

Two of them were busy picking up trash and trimming brush. No complaints there. The other two were painting a metal railing on a bridge that spans a drainage basin. At first glance all seemed well. But ...

The bridge and railing are less than a year old. There didn't seem to be anything wrong with the existing paint job on the railing - no rust, no flaking, no wear and tear, no fading - just some bird crap along portions of it.

The workers were merrily slapping paint on and around the railing. No prep work - no sanding, no cleaning, no priming. They were also just painting over the bird crap. So in a little while when the bird crap dries up and flakes off, the paint will flake off along with it.

That's the public sector in a nutshell. Performing totally unnecessary work in an incompetent manner.

Sigh...

Two days ago I was ranting about the failure of this country's energy policies over the last several decades. Harper suggested, tongue firmly planted in cheek, that I run out and get an electric car. Coincidentally, there have been a few recent articles pointing out that electric cars aren't necessarily the solution to our energy woes, and in fact might even exacerbate the situation.

Watchdog says electric cars 'are as dirty as diesel'
Electric cars may portray themselves as 'zero emissions' but the overall pollution they generate can be almost as great as a frugal conventional diesel car, consumer watchdogs said today.

The amount of carbon dioxide - the so-called 'greenhouse gas' blamed by scientists for global warming -  created to generate the electricity powering an electric car, can be just as great as that created by the internal combustion engine

The main  difference is that  while a conventional car's emissions come out of the vehicle's exhaust pipe, those created by an electric car are generated at the power station which supplies the electricity.
The article does point out that electric cars are much greener than cars powered by internal combustion engines when it comes to localized emissions, which could be significant in improving air quality in large cities.

Another overlooked point regarding electric cars is the increased demand they place on an already overburdened power grid. Here in Texas we had rolling blackouts last summer due to heat-related increases in energy consumption to run air conditioners, and more rolling blackouts this winter due to increased demand during cold spells. What happens when a large number of electric cars are plugged in? Either more blackouts, or more people walking or staying home (or, more likely, hitching rides with their neighbors with gas-powered vehicles). Alternatively, we build more power plants, which are expensive, require an exhaustive and convoluted approval process, and a long lead time. By the time the new plants are on-line demand will again be surpassing supply.

Finally, we have an excellent example of the law of unintended consequences. As more people drive electric cars and hybrids, revenue from gasoline taxes plummets. So naturally, enterprising politicians have come up with innovative ways to increase taxes on fuel-efficient vehicles.

Electric vehicle drivers won’t be getting a free ride when it comes to paying for Oregon’s roads, if advocates of an odometer fee have their way.
Under House Bill 2328, those drivers would pay a “vehicle road usage charge,” starting with model year 2014 electric vehicles and plug-in gas-electric hybrids.
The bill sets the rate at 0.6 cents per gallon, with the actual tax due to be calculated based on how many miles the vehicle is driven and using 48 mpg as the mileage equivalency rate.

The bill is based on an experiment Oregon conducted in 2005-07. Gas tax revenues were falling because of increasingly fuel-efficient cars, so the state convinced volunteers to install GPS-based on-board transmitters that tracked their miles driven. 
Public concern surfaced, though. Some criticized the potential for an expanding bureaucracy. Others said the per-mile fee was too high and exceeded what a similar vehicle would pay in gas taxes.
The bill also requires the development of an option of tracking and reporting miles driven to protect drivers’ privacy by avoiding the use of “vehicle location technology.” Instead, that option is likely to rely on technology to transmit remotely miles driven as recorded by the vehicle’s odometer, Whitty said.
Those drivers would need to use a log book or other method of documenting miles driven off of Oregon roads — for example, in other states — so they can seek a refund for the fee paid on that travel.

So drivers will need some sort of technology installed in their vehicles to record and transmit mileage driven, plus a manual system to record out-of-state miles driven. Of course, the technology will be foolproof and the manual system won't be subject to 'inaccuracies,' right? And the new state bureacracy to keep track of all this, compute the tax owed, and collect it will be as efficient and effective as other government agencies, right? And the tax rate and mileage equivalency rate won't be raised or manipulated, right?

GMAFB.

(H/T to Peter for the links.)

P.S. - One week ago gas was $2.99 per gallon. By Tuesday it was up to $3.09, and yesterday it was anywhere from $3.19 to $3.29. Of course, according to the media this is all Libya's fault. Obama had nothing to do with it, right?

GMA Great Big FB...

1 comment:

Harper said...

A local forum has been debating the electric car thing, since gas prices are astronomical. Someone posted that the current electric cars' life expectancy is 100k miles and there is considerable expense to dispose of the vehicle's batteries. A Hummer, by comparison is around 250k and junked rather cheaply.

Gas jumped to $3.21 in town and $3.35 out here - makes that horse out back all the more valuable.