iPad lust applies to cars too

Another great column from Holman Jenkins – Welfare Wagons (not to be confused with Swagger Wagons).

Never mind. iPad lust applies to [electric] cars too, and early adopters [of Chevy’s Volt or Nissan’s Leaf] can be expected to line up around the block. But it is insane to subsidize these vehicles with taxpayer dollars.

Even if you believe saving gasoline is a holy cause, subsidizing electric cars simply is not a substitute for politicians finding the courage to jack up gas prices. Think about it this way: You can double the fuel efficiency of any car by putting a second person in it. You can increase its fuel efficiency to infinity by refraining from frivolous trips.

These are the incentives that flow from a higher gas price. Exactly the opposite incentives flow from mandatory investment in higher-mileage vehicles. You paid a lot for a car that costs very little to operate—so why not operate it? Why bother to car pool? Why not drive across town for a jar of mayonnaise?

Though as eager as any to clamber aboard the electric-vehicle bandwagon, German parts maker Robert Bosch notes with rare honesty that electric cars may end up responsible for more CO2 than their conventional counterparts in regions (like much of the U.S.) where electricity is produced from coal.

Saving a certain magical amount of gasoline won’t allow the U.S. to disentangle itself from the Middle East. It wouldn’t allow the U.S. to walk away from its global policeman labors. We could convert all our cars to electricity and the U.S. would not willingly relinquish its military hegemony.

Unwillingly, of course, is a different matter. Tax handouts for electric vehicles are emblematic of an alarmingly childish refusal to take account of circumstances. The U.S. government is deeply in debt. In people and nations with their backs to the wall, one looks for signs of rationality. Running up more debt to subsidize electric runabouts for suburbanites is not such a sign.

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