Shortly before heading home to Wyoming for the summer recess, Sen. John Barrasso introduced and hastily passed a $287 billion transportation reauthorization bill, the American Transportation Infrastructure Act, out of the Environment and Public Works Committee, which he chairs.
According to reports, Sen. Barrasso – normally a steady hand in energy policy – agreed at the behest of the Democrats on the committee to include a provision in the bill providing a billion dollars in subsidies for electric vehicle charging stations, essentially injecting a Green New Deal-style program into his measure.
It is understandable that Sen. Barrasso is looking to drive much-needed transportation dollars back to his home state, but saddling the build-out of a retail network for a niche consumer product on Wyoming taxpayers is just bad public policy, plain and simple.
It should be obvious that subsidizing retail outlets for a particular product is not a proper role for government, but since we seem to be heading in that direction, let’s look at it in other contexts.
Should federal taxpayers subsidize the construction of gas stations? After all, the vast majority of cars are gasoline-powered.
Or, speaking of niche products, should we subsidize the construction of E85 pumps, which can dispense fuel with up to 85 percent ethanol? There are far more flex-fuel capable vehicles on the road than there are electric vehicles.
Or more speculatively, compressed natural gas is a potential transportation fuel, so why not include that as well?
Many people enjoy the convenience of having a coffee shop on every corner, so is it the federal government’s job to support the build-out of this caffeine infrastructure?
I expect most Wyomingites would answer a resounding “no,” to all of the above.
The highway program began as a bargain between highway users and motorists. Over the years, Congress has loaded it up with extraneous programs that have nothing to do with building and maintaining our highway system, like this billion-dollar boondoggle for electric vehicles.
Considering the fact that electric vehicles make up less than 2 percent of the vehicle fleet in the United States and that only 95 of them were sold in Wyoming in 2018, it makes little sense for Sen. Barrasso to agree to yet another layer of taxpayer support for them.
Electric vehicle purchasers, most of which make more than $100,000 a year, already receive a federal tax credit of up to $7,500 per vehicle while many states and localities pile their own tax breaks on top. In addition, as part of a settlement agreement with the Obama administration, Volkswagen has already agreed to commit $2 billion to building electric vehicle infrastructure across the country.
All of this begs the question: when is enough, enough? Sen. Barrasso is rightly on record in numerous other contexts opposing efforts by the federal government to pick winners and losers. He has even introduced legislation to eliminate the electric vehicle tax credit. So why the change of heart for electric vehicle charging stations?
Fundamentally, taxpayers should not be paying for private infrastructure. Where there is a need for electric vehicle infrastructure, private companies can provide it. Electric vehicles should be no exception.
So, if you see Sen. Barrasso at the coffee shop this summer, tell him to pull the plug on the giveaway for electric vehicle charging stations. We shouldn’t let the Democrats inject their Green New Deal into the highway bill.