President’s Budget Doubles Down on Eco-Car Fiasco

by David Bier on February 16, 2012

in Blog

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The president’s phony green economy is collapsing, drip by drip. While the rest of country is frantically trying to turn off the tap, it’s like the president has turned up his environmental music so loud he can no longer hear the coming cascade.

Consider the president’s clean car initiative, which has already funneled $5 billion into the electric car industry. Ener1—an electric car manufacturer who received $118 million from the Obama Department of Energy—went bankrupt two weeks ago. Fisker Automotive is downsizing and firing workers because the stimulus money that supported their green jobs ran out. Its battery supplier and fellow stimulus recipient A123 will also be down-and-out if Fisker goes. Even while the industry continues to receive tax credits for electric car sales, electric car manufacturers Aptera and Think both went bankrupt this month.

Enter the Obama 2012 budget, which fulfills his promise to “double-down” on clean energy investments. The budget not only continues the failed clean car fiasco, but actually escalates it, raising the $7,500 tax credit by $2,500 to $10,000 and broadening eligibility, in what sure looks like another industry bailout. Didn’t the president say something about bailouts in his State of the Union Address? Oh right, “It’s time to apply the same rules from top to bottom,” he claimed. “No bailouts, no handouts, and no copouts. An America built to last insists on responsibility from everybody.” Except for my green energy allies, he apparently forgot to add.

The budget also calls for one million electric cars “on the road” by 2015—no matter how long, or how much it takes. So let’s do the math: $10,000 X 1,000,000 cars = $10,000,000,000: $10 billion to make 1/234th of the total light duty vehicles on the road electric, and to reduce oil consumption by less than 1 percent.  If only 10,000 are sold next year, which would be low, it’ll cost taxpayers $100 million. As Iain Murray and I pointed out in a Washington Examiner op-ed last month, these are subsidies for the rich: “The Volt sells for about $40,000, while the Fisker Karma sells for $100,000—well above most Americans’ price range. That means that the federal government is again working to benefit the rich so they can drive cars that ease their environmental conscience.”

“We can restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules,” the president told the nation in his State of the Union Address. But consider the demographics of average electric car buyers who will receive the benefits from all these subsidies. According GM CEO Dan Akerson, average incomes for Chevy Volt owners are $170,000/year, only Mercedes-Benz drivers earn more, but just barely.  Nissan Leaf owners average $140,000/year.

How is this fair to the average American or those who cannot afford a car? Is it fair to place the tax burden for the rich on the poor? Is everyone really “playing by the same set of rules” here? President Obama’s budget and rhetoric simply do not mix. He may have buried these subsidies for failed capitalists and wealthy environmentally-conscious car buyers at the back of his budget, but he can’t hide the fact that he’s no champion of the 99 percent any longer.

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