The Conversation

Taxpayer subsidized wonders of technology

In one of those curious bits of synchronicity, I caught a few minutes of a documentary film about the remarkably advanced robotic production line of Tesla Motors this morning.  They make extremely expensive boutique electric cars.  Their production line is a high-tech miracle, everything shiny and polished and clean as a whistle.  The cars are ferried around on robot tractor beds that follow magnetic stripes on the floor, which makes it easy to restructure the production line when needed..  The robot assembly arms are so sophisticated that they can stuff the front bucket seats into place, like a model car hobbyist putting together a scale-model kit.  It's really quite remarkable.

And you paid for it, as pointed out in a Wall Street Pit article forwarded to me later in the morning by a CNBC/stock market junkie friend who knows of my long-standing critique of the "zero-emissions automobile" racket:

Take Tesla for starters. It received the $465 mm loan from DOE, but it also benefits from a $7500/car federal subsidy for electric cars.  Moreover, it benefits from the State of California’s Zero Emissions Credit program.  In its infinite wisdom, CA mandated that all the major auto companies sell a certain number of zero emissions vehicles.  If they don’t they have to buy credits from companies that do make them-namely, Tesla.  This was also essential in putting the  company in the black in Q1, and the company is sitting on $250 mm worth of these credits.

IOW, Tesla’s profits are courtesy of you, the taxpayer-and also courtesy of the shareholders of Ford (F), GM, Toyota (TM), Honda (HMC), etc.

The rest of the article describes the other rent-seeking adventures of Elon Musk, crony capitalist extraordinaire.  It seems as if every part of the "green energy" diaspora of debacles works this way.  On top of the huge taxpayer subsidies, you've got special rules that benefit green companies - to the outrageous degree of giving wind farms a license to kill bald eagles.  And politicians love creating these imaginary "markets" for non-products like zero-emission vehicle credits, and the carbon credits that made Al Gore a zillionaire.  The well-connected friends and contributors of the ruling class make a bundle, at everyone else's expense, and get to posture as righteous crusaders for the Earth in the process.  Those California vehicle credits are basically a blackmail scheme that lets Tesla loot the companies who sell cars people actually want to buy.

I've been on the electric-car case since my earliest days as a blogger, when I heard some poor sap gushing about the remarkably low cost of Chevy Volts.  In reality, Volts cost more than Ferrari sports cars - it's just that nameless, faceless taxpayers (and, thanks to the wonders of deficit spending, their children) cover 75% of the cost.  Those early promises of big sales down the road, providing enough tax revenue to repay Uncle Sugar for the huge design and production subsidies, are looking increasingly laughable.  Government Motors just slashed the sticker price by another $5,000 due to weak sales, and they were already selling Volts at a loss.

I have no objection whatsoever to electric cars in principle.  If they got the technology working to my standards of range and convenience, I'd look at one myself.  Who wouldn't love a car that never needs gas?  But that's not what they are.  There is nothing of capitalism and choice about the electric car market, and the current charging systems gobble up tons of fossil-fuel energy to charge them.  Like the cost of the electric car, the cost and environmental impact of its power source is hidden from consumers.  This whole market is the kind of fraud that a properly functioning government would shut down, rather than subsidizing.  But that's the problem with our increasingly disturbing fusion of government and industry: the "watchdogs" are part of the scam.

 


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