The writer, a Los Angeles freelancer, is a former Detroit News business reporter who blogs at Starkman Approved
By Eric Starkman
I’m still reeling from Senator Debbie Stabenow’s admission last week that she cares not one iota about the soaring cost of gas because she drives an electric vehicle. Michigan’s Democratic media enablers gave Stabenow a pass, dismissing criticisms of Stabenow’s cluelessness as coming from “right wing” Republicans “pouncing” on Michigan’s senior Senator.
While Michiganders may be nonplussed by Stabenow’s ignorance as to why high gas prices could lead to a collapse of the trucking industry and result in severe shortages of food, medicines, automotive parts, and other goods critical to keeping the economy alive, the Senator’s comments caused quite a sensation on social media. I fear that Michiganders have developed a natural immunity to political stupidity.
The ineptness of Michigan’s leadership was driven home to me reading this story by Chad Livengood discussing a potential tax on electric vehicle owners based on miles driven. Livengood, the new political editor of the Detroit News, did an admirable job laying out a critical issue.
As automakers improve the fuel-efficiency of their gas engine vehicles and if electric vehicles take hold as the CEOs of GM and Ford promise they will, revenues from Michigan’s per-gallon taxes on gasoline and diesel fuel will fast decline. Livengood cites an unnamed University of Michigan-Flint economist who estimates Michigan’s taxes on fuel could decline by $2 billion annually by mid-century which represents half the state’s current road maintenance budget.
State Rep. Scott VanSingel, R-Grant, is the rare bright bulb in Lansing who understands the looming road repair budget crisis. He’s drafted legislation that would phase in a vehicle miles tax over time by taxing EV owners for their road use.
VanSingel must be applauded for his forward-thinking initiative, but what’s mind boggling is that a master plan isn’t already developed and in place anticipating and addressing the critical issues resulting from the accelerated conversion to electric vehicles promoted by Governor Gretchen Whitmer and blindly applauded by Senator Stabenow.
In private industry, a conversion of this magnitude would be painstakingly planned and finalized before being implemented. Michigan legislators are just winging it, and to be fair, so is the Biden Administration. Former marginal Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm oversees the energy department.
It seems safe to assume that other critical issues relating to electric vehicle conversion haven’t even been considered, let alone addressed. Among the most serious for Michigan is the inevitable further destruction of the state’s already battered Third-World roads.
If you think Michigan roads are bad now, wait till electric vehicles, particularly electric trucks and SUVs, start rolling down Michigan roads in increased numbers.
Electric vehicles do way more damage to roads because they are considerably heavier. GM’s electric Hummer truck weighs 9,063 pounds. The truck’s battery weighs more than a Honda Civic.
A Tesla Model 3, Elon Musk’s most popular car, weighs 3,648 to 4,250 lbs. The Tesla Model X weighs 5,185 to 5,390 lbs. By comparison, a Toyota Camry, the top selling car in America, weighs 3,310 to 3,595 lbs.
Although it hasn’t yet been determined how much more road damage electric vehicles will cause, scientists agree the amount is likely significant.
The ability for electric cars to go from 0 to 60 in mere seconds also isn’t good for the roads, but scientists admit they have no clue just how much additional damage the rapid acceleration causes.
“Asphalt is an extraordinary material. The faster you accelerate, the harder it gets and the more counter-pressure it gives,” Sandra Erkens, a professor of applied civil engineering, told a Brussels publication. “We know that acceleration, braking, and steering movements cause additional wear… But we do not have good tools yet to calculate this effect.”
As electric cars gain popularity and do more road damage, that will further increase emissions from gas cars because damaged roads reduce fuel efficiency. They also increase fatalities.
Road repairs are a significant environmental hazard, particularly since they cause traffic slowdowns which further reduce fuel efficiency. In fact, repairing damaged roads cause more environmental harm than gas engine cars.
A common-sense approach to Michigan’s EV conversion would be to focus on promoting smaller and more affordable EVs that would initially do less damage to Michigan’s roads and give the state some running room to repair them. But that would put a big dent in the personal finances of GM CEO Mary Barra and Ford CEO Jim Farley, who respectively received $29 million and $23 million in compensation last year.
Barra and Farley make a lot more money selling tarted up trucks and SUVs, so much so they pretty much ceded the gas engine sedan market to Toyota, Honda, and other foreign automakers. GM and Ford should be ashamed that Toyota sells more vehicles in the U.S. than they do. In my mind, they have failed America and Americans understandably no longer feel any attachment or allegiance to these companies.
Whitmer is doing her part to keep Barra and Farley living in the style in which they have become accustomed.
If this Detroit Free Press story is accurate, Whitmer agreed to give Ford $100 million and property tax exemptions worth $50 million in exchange for Ford agreeing to invest $2 billion to retool three local Detroit area plants. One of the plants, the Rouge Electric Vehicle Center in Dearborn, will increase production of the electric F-150 Lightning pickup truck to 150,000 vehicles per year — great news for Michigan’s road repair companies and crews.
Farley needs to manufacture lots and lots of electric F-150s to meet the insatiable demand for the vehicle that Ford insists is out there. Why Michigan taxpayers are paying to subsidize Ford’s manufacturing efforts so it can sell a highly profitable truck is beyond me, particularly since the company last year earned $17.9 billion on $136 billion in revenues.
Whitmer’s proposed January budget included a $2,000 rebate on the purchase of any electric vehicle, plus a $500 rebate for at-home charging infrastructure. The incentives include Ford’s red-hot Mustang Mach-E crossover SUV which the company proudly assembles in Mexico. Given that buyers are reportedly paying $20,000 or more over list to get their hands on the vehicle, it doesn’t seem they need much incentive to buy one.
Being the cynic that I am, I suspect Whitmer has an unspoken agreement with Farley that he won’t move Ford’s EV operations out of Michigan until after the fall election.
Rather than giving tax breaks to the very wealthy who can afford luxury electric vehicles, Lansing should be imposing a tax not only on electric vehicle road usage, but also one based on poundage. Someone who can afford a six-figure Hummer can and should pay for the considerably more road damage their vehicle will cause than someone opting for a Nissan Leaf.
Here’s some more insight as to why Stabenow lives in a parallel universe where the price of gas doesn’t matter.
According to Senator Stabenow’s 2021 financial disclosure form, she receives an annual pension of $88,066.08 for her nine years of service in the state legislature. Yet a sitting state legislator makes only $71,685.
BTW: Michigan taxpayers are showring their state representatives with considerably more pay than most states.
Stabenow isn’t subject to any term limits, so she can feed from the public trough indefinitely if Michigan voters keep sending her to Washington. Yet VanSingel must step down this year because of Michigan’s term limits. The rare person in Lansing that understands and is trying to address critical issues is being put out to pasture and his annual compensation is considerably less than Stabenow’s Michigan pension.
That’s messed up.
Stabenow also is paid $174,000 for serving as senior Senator.
Here’s what else is troubling me. Stabenow’s annual compensation and pension totals $262,066. Yet her latest financial disclosure form says she has less than $250,000 in a checking or savings account and no other sources of interest income. Stabenow has two 30-year mortgages on properties, one for less than $1 million and one for less than $250,000.
As Stabenow was first elected to Congress in 1996, I’d expect she would have accumulated more significant assets, particularly since she sits on the finance committee so presumably she’s a wizard in money management. Stabenow is either living the good life or possibly she keeps her money hidden under a mattress.
I asked Stabenow spokeswoman Robyn Bryan for a comment. I’ll let you know if I hear back.
Admittedly, U.S. taxpayers benefit from Stabenow not owning individual stocks. In February, Stabenow co-sponsored a bill preventing members of Congress from owning or trading individual stocks. While the effort was admirable, the legislation is no skin off Stabenow’s back.
Reach the writer at [email protected] Confidentiality assured.
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