Category Archives: infrastructure

Gov. Haslam: EV Owners Are Watching

Gov. Bill Haslam, R-Pilot Oil, says we have a major problem looming, which is funding our road infrastructure due to declining gas tax revenue. His Transportation Commissioner concurs, saying:

Transportation Commissioner John Schroer said in budget hearings last week that he has met with the heads of the House and Senate transportation committees about the effect of improving fuel economy and the advent of electric vehicles on Tennessee’s gas tax system.

“We’re going to have to figure out before it’s too late how we’re going to systematically fund transportation in the future,” Schroer said at the hearing. “We can’t always rely on the gas tax to be the way that we fund transportation.”

Schroer said part of the discussion with lawmakers centered on what to do about electric vehicles, such as the Nissan Leaf.

Well, you can’t say I didn’t see this one coming. Leaf owners such as myself well know that we will have to pay some kind of tax to make up for the gas taxes we no longer pay, this is not a shocker. Fair enough, we’re using the roads, we’ll pay our fair share. But “a major problem for the state’s infrastructure over the next decade”? Doubtful.

There are so few EVs on the road now and for the foreseeable future that I doubt the loss of our gas tax revenue constitutes “a major problem for the state’s infrastructure.” I mean really, if we’re going to have that many EVs on the road in 10 years then you folks better be more worried about the electric grid than fixing potholes in state roads. Slap an extra $100 tax on the sale of every EV and I think we’re done for now.

Pardon me for being suspicious that the Leaf has been singled out. You know, there are people who run their vehicles on cooking oil; they don’t pay gas tax, either. Why not mention them, too? They’ve been getting a free ride for years. Meanwhile, people who buy gasoline for things like lawnmowers DO pay the tax but don’t use the roads. Right now, from a revenue perspective, I’d say it’s all a wash.

But yes, over time we will need to address the issue, as will the entire nation. This is not an issue unique to Tennessee. I’m just not seeing the urgency here. And pardon me for saying this but the Haslam Administration doesn’t have a good track record when it rushes in to things.

Unless… well, unless Gov. Pilot Oil has something else in mind. I do think such cynicism is warranted, based on the governor’s past actions. After all, Gov. Haslam, you did leave your Pilot Oil holdings out of your “blind” trust by pretending to not understand the entire point of a blind trust.

And you did play all innocent when your freeze on new state regulations meant the family’s chain of truck stops could skirt an environmental rule affecting fuel storage tanks. You batted those baby browns and gave us that aw-shucks grin and said, “who, me? Did I do that? Well, I do declare!”

You know you did, governor. So I really just don’t trust your motives here, nor should anyone. No offense, but you sorta asked for it. It’s obvious that gas-free EVs and higher CAFE standards (which you openly opposed, for obvious reasons) are going to cut into Pilot Oil profits eventually. I’m not denying that. And you are in a position to keep tabs on the family business in a way the public is not, because Pilot Oil is a privately-held company. Meanwhile, as governor, you are in a position to enact policies that directly impact said privately-held company. That’s just the facts. You basically asked us to just trust you, but why should we? I don’t trust any politician.

So Gov. Haslam, I conclude that your conflict of interest just keeps rearing its ugly head. That just really sucks for you. It just won’t go away. That said, this is a problem you created when you chose to keep your Pilot Oil holdings out of your blind trust.

It’s just inconceivable to me that you won’t solve this “major problem” in a way that benefits the people who sell gasoline: mainly, you and your family. And our local news media’s willful amnesia about the source of your family fortune is pretty sucky too, since we’re on the topic.

Anyway, I’m putting the governor on notice: I’m watching. I’m paying attention. I’m doubtful that you will take any action against the interests of Pilot Oil. And I’m very suspicious of this sudden appearance of a “major problem” for our infrastructure.

Don’t think for a second I won’t call you on it. You’ve been warned.

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Filed under Bill Haslam, electric car, infrastructure, taxes, Tennessee

>Please Pardon Our Mess

>And America puts up a “closed for the duration” sign:

In effect, a large part of our political class is showing its priorities: given the choice between asking the richest 2 percent or so of Americans to go back to paying the tax rates they paid during the Clinton-era boom, or allowing the nation’s foundations to crumble — literally in the case of roads, figuratively in the case of education — they’re choosing the latter.

It’s a disastrous choice in both the short run and the long run.

In the short run, those state and local cutbacks are a major drag on the economy, perpetuating devastatingly high unemployment.

It’s crucial to keep state and local government in mind when you hear people ranting about runaway government spending under President Obama. Yes, the federal government is spending more, although not as much as you might think. But state and local governments are cutting back. And if you add them together, it turns out that the only big spending increases have been in safety-net programs like unemployment insurance, which have soared in cost thanks to the severity of the slump.

That is, for all the talk of a failed stimulus, if you look at government spending as a whole you see hardly any stimulus at all. And with federal spending now trailing off, while big state and local cutbacks continue, we’re going into reverse.

I’d add, also, that we wasted stimulus money on crap like $237 billion in individual tax cuts and $51 billion in tax cuts for businesses. Tax cuts haven’t wowed me as a job creator or an economic stimulator, but we apparently needed to appease the free market fairies to overcome a Republican fillibuster. Whatever.

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Filed under economy, infrastructure

>No One Could Have Anticipated This

>Oh, wait. Yeah, we probably could:

US Water Pipelines Are Breaking

The Environmental Protection Agency says utilities will need to invest more than $277 billion over the next two decades on repairs and improvements to drinking water systems. Water industry engineers put the figure drastically higher, at about $480 billion.

Water utilities, largely managed by city governments, have never faced improvements of this magnitude before. And customers will have to bear the majority of the cost through rate increases, according to the American Water Works Association, an industry group.

Engineers say this is a crucial era for the nation’s water systems, especially in older cities like New York, where some pipes and tunnels were built in the 1800s and are now nearing the end of their life expectancies.

”Our generation hasn’t experienced anything like this. We weren’t around when the infrastructure was being built,” said Greg Kail, spokesman for the water industry group. ”We didn’t pay for the pipes to be put in the ground, but we sure benefited from the improvements to public health that came from it.”

This one’s a no-brainer. Back in 2006 it was estimated the Iraq War cost us $2 billion a week. So, $480 billion is, what, 4 1/2 years in Iraq? And we’ve been there five years?

And what’s the bigger threat: no clean water at home, or some mythic WMD that never even existed?

(h/t, Atrios)

[UPDATE}:

If you agree we should invest in America, not in Iraq, there’s a petition going around.

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Filed under cost, infrastructure, Iraq War

>Speaking Of Infrastructure

>Hearts and minds, people. Hearts and minds:

Iraqi Power Grid Nearing Collapse
By STEVEN R. HURST
BAGHDAD — Iraq’s power grid is on the brink of collapse because of insurgent sabotage, rising demand, fuel shortages and provinces that are unplugging local power stations from the national grid, officials said Saturday.

Electricity Ministry spokesman Aziz al-Shimari said power generation nationally is only meeting half the demand, and there had been four nationwide blackouts over the past two days. The shortages across the country are the worst since the summer of 2003, shortly after the U.S.-led invasion to topple Saddam Hussein, he said.

Power supplies in Baghdad have been sporadic all summer and now are down to just a few hours a day, if that. The water supply in the capital has also been severely curtailed by power blackouts and cuts that have affected pumping and filtration stations.

Karbala province south of Baghdad has been without power for three days, causing water mains to go dry in the provincial capital, the Shiite holy city of Karbala.
. . . .
The power problems are only adding to the misery of Iraqis, already suffering from the effects of more than four years of war and sectarian violence. Outages make life almost unbearable in the summer months, when average daily temperatures reach between 110 and 120 degrees.

Of course, the electrical grid was in poor shape when American troops arrived in 2003. Years of sanctions against Saddam Hussein’s regime saw to that — and the U.S. had imposed these sanctions since 1990. Indeed, under this economic strangulation, much of Iraq’s infrastructure fell apart.

Perhaps one reason American troops weren’t met with chocolates and roses in 2003 is because many Iraqis blame us for their humanitarian crisis that started long before the first “shock and awe” bombs fell. Whether you agree with them or not isn’t the point. The point is that we have no moral standing in the Middle East as a result of these kinds of actions, and waging war in Iraq has only made the situation worse.

This is one reason why I say there will be no American-brokered “democracy” in Iraq and why the Bush plan for a “win” won’t happen, not in September, not ever. We haven’t won the hearts and minds. They don’t trust us, they don’t want what we’re pitching. Only an organization that doesn’t bear America’s fingerprint can broker peace in Iraq.

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Filed under infrastructure, Iraq