Framing the Dialogue

Re-Volting

Chevy Volt featuring an exploding battery

“Pennsylvania’s legislature passed the $27.15 billion FY2012 state budget on June 29, 2011. The FY2012 budget reduces spending by three percent from FY2011. Gov. Tom Corbett signed the budget with 15 minutes to spare on June 30, 2011, giving the state will have its first on-time budget in nine years. The budget does not include any tax increases. It reduces education funding by approximately $860 million and also made cuts to human services. Pennsylvania has a total state debt of approximately $147,788,481,000…”

 Pennsylvania’s governor and legislature made some tough decisions and for the first time in nine years passed a budget on time (Under former Governor Rendell – Democrat – a state budget was never passed on time). It was curious to me as a resident and taxpayer of Pennsylvania to read that the state is going to spend $1,000,000.00 to install charging stations along the Pennsylvania Turnpike at some of its rest areas. The turnpike, who recently raised tolls again, is kicking in an additional $500,000.00 for the stations. While we have become somewhat decencitized to the amounts government spends and this spending is a small percentage of the total budget, but the “investment” seems like it is more for form than function.

The government is spending roughly 0.005 percent of its budget on a type of vehicle that has only sold in the low thousands meaning vehicles that no one wants. Unless something has changed about the range of these vehicles (roughly 40 miles between charges) they’ll need charging stations every 40 miles. Even with a rapid charge it would take by my estimate over 15 hours to make the five hundred mile trip from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh (avg. speed of 60 mph, 20 minutes/charge, 10 min/charge set up). Think about the time if you need a four-hour charge. It is hard to believe that the use of that much money is more than window dressing.

I pass by this natural gas fueling station frequently (probably 45 times since it was built) and have only seen a vehicle in it one time. I actually got “excited” about it until I realized that the vehicle was not fueling, but carried the photographer and what I surmised was a reporter who were doing a story about the station. This facility was built by a local gas company with private money…hopefully. I think there may actually be more natural gas vehicles than electric ones.

The funny thing about both the electric and natural gas cars is that there are concerted efforts to place severe limits on both electric generation (mostly coal-fired plants) and the extraction of natural gas. That’s the irony of the environmental movement…use electric cars, but also eliminate the source of the majority of the electricity…use natural gas vehicles, but place moratoriums on natural gas productions.

Perhaps it is time to buy stock in more natural means of transportation like horse-drawn carriages. It is low tech, but probably would still get you to Pittsburgh faster.

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