Electric Vehicles: Another Government Bet, Another Taxpayer Loss

by Panos Prevedouros I quote below a summary by Robert W. Poole, Jr., Director of Transportation Studies, Reason Foundation that he originally titled What’s Wrong with Electric Cars? ================================================= Several years ago in this newsletter (prior to the debut of the Chevy Volt), I celebrated the vision of a future of zero-tailpipe emission cars, powered by breakthrough battery technology. Articles on advanced batteries were appearing in respectable places like MIT’s Technology Review, and Silicon Valley venture capitalists were ramping up funding of electric vehicle (EV) and advanced-battery startups. With the coming of practical, zero-emission vehicles, I hoped, a lot of the anti-car, anti-highway ideas that I disagree with could be dismissed as irrelevant. Alas, several years later, things don’t look so bright for EVs. Canadian columnist Margaret Wente, writing in The Globe and Mail last fall, summed it up as follows: “As Dennis DesRosiers, a leading auto consultant points out, consumers simply won’t pay a $20,000 premium for a vehicle that doesn’t go very far, isn’t very convenient, and runs out of juice as soon as you turn on the air conditioner.” And that, I think, neatly explains why: sales of the highly touted Chevy Volt totaled just 7,671 last year, and the Nissan Leaf did only marginally better at 9,674. The Daily Mail in London reported that only 2,149 EVs have been sold in Britain since 2006. Wall Street Journal auto industry analyst Joseph White in February penned a detailed comparison of the Chevy Volt and the conventionally powered Chevy Cruz, about the same size but selling for half the Volt’s $40,000 price. The Cruz is breaking sales...
Sustainable Development is an Oxymoron

Sustainable Development is an Oxymoron

by Panos Prevedouros On March 2, 1972, a team of experts from MIT presented a groundbreaking report called The Limits to Growth. Read more in the Smithsonian Magazine. More recently, Australian physicist Graham Turner of CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems shows how actual data from 1970 to 2000 almost exactly matches predictions set forth in the “business-as-usual” scenario presented in The Limits to Growth.Looking at the thick line updates of the 1972 trends, I find the energy trend alarming. The rest of the trends do no seem to be as alarming as originally forecast in 1972. Significantly, the population growth in China is under substantial control. But growth in China, Brazil and Nigeria counterbalance the population reduction of China. The retired MIT professor who led the original study had this to say: Sustainable development: I consider to be an oxymoron actually… Predicting a global collapse … is like being in San Francisco and knowing that there is going to be an earthquake and that it is going to cause buildings to fall down. Which buildings are going to fall down, and where are they going to fall? We just don’t have any way of understanding that. You can for a brief period spend more out of your bank account than you save, if you have come through a long period of thrift. But eventually, of course, you bring your bank account back down to zero and you’re stuck. That is exactly what is happening to us on the globe. We are living off the savings of biodiversity, fossil fuel accumulation, agricultural soil buildup and groundwater accumulation, and when we have spent...

Hawaii Jobs: Outlook for Jobs in Education, Government, Military and Tourism

by Panos Prevedouros There are basically four main industries in Hawaii: Education, Government, Military and Tourism. And a fifth large one serving these four is Services. In round numbers, education (DOE, UH system and private) employed 63,000 people in 2010, civilian federal, state and county government employed 77,000 people, the hospitality industry including entertainment, restaurants and bars employed 90,000 people, the armed forces employed 50,000 people, and professional, business and other services employed 100,000 people. These five types of industries employ 60% of Hawaii’s people. While we have been inundated about a need for “construction jobs,” the construction industry typically employs less than 5% of the workforce as the detailed breakdown below indicates.(1) This article presents a brief analysis of Hawaii’s four main industries and assesses their growth potential. Education At roughly $15,000 per pupil, the annual expenditure Hawaii’s state based education system is among the highest in the nation. This level of expenditure all by itself indicates that this is certainly not an area of future growth. Part of the Education industry but separate from the state DOE is the UH system which has become administratively bloated in the last two decades and its diversity of campuses has added more to its costs as a system. UH-Manoa is one of the top pork-barrel research funding recipient universities in the nation which is unsustainable past the retirement of Senator Daniel Inouye. Several units will continue to excel, but the UH as a whole is not a promising locus for job growth in Hawaii. Private education will continue to hold its own but escalating tuition costs place a ceiling on...

Honolulu Rail: Designed to Fail

by Panos Prevedouros Randal O’Toole, economist and author of several books on transportation and urban planning was in Honolulu last week where he spoke on two distinguished panels in Kapolei and in Honolulu. He summarized his opinion about Honolulu’s rail in this eye-opening Designed to Fail article. A few highlights: Honolulu rail … will have the high costs of heavy rail and the capacity limits of light rail. Honolulu rail … has too few seats so bus riders question whether people will be willing to stand for 20-minute trips. Honolulu rail … was planned to go to Kapolei, which has about 35,000 people, but the city decided it didn’t have enough money to go that far. Between East Kapolei and Honolulu the rail line will pass through Waipahu (33,000 people), Pearl City (48,000 people), and by Pearl Harbor Naval Base (its 20,000 people work right on the base). The rest of the rail line goes through light industrial and commercial areas. So the rail line will serve, at most, about 15% of the residents of Oahu and probably no more than 20% of the jobs. That means no more than about 3% of workers will both live and work on the rail line. Honolulu rail … ridership projections are questionable and average at 110 passengers on board the two-car trains at any given time. US light-rail cars carry an average of 24 people, and the most crowded in San Diego carry just 37 people, 110 is highly optimistic. Honolulu rail … proponents argue that the project will relieve congestion, but even the final environmental impact statement says that, at...

Jobs: Fundamental Trends – 2000 to 2050. How Did We Get Here and What’s in Store?

by Panos Prevedouros There are three fundamental trends at play in this half century: Aging of both population and infrastructure; Advanced economies cannot absorb unskilled and low skilled laborers; and, Too many crises in one decade took our eye off the ball. The first trend affects the US more than other nations. Baby-boomers have started reaching the age of retirement and the age when health maintenance expenses increase. As a result many state pension and health funds are under substantial stress and their situation is likely to rapidly worsen as more workers age and fewer workers find high paying jobs that pay high enough taxes to sustain pension and health expenses. One of the proposals toward retirement fund solvency is to raise the age of retirement from the typical of 65 year of age to 70. Along with the baby boom in the US also came the second infrastructure boom (the first one was during the Great Depression.) The second boom focused mostly on transportation and the road and air modes in particular, along with a misguided urban rail renaissance* of the late 1970s till the 1990s. For example, BART in San Francisco and Metro in Washington. DC are facing work backlogs in the order of tens of billions of dollars for required refurbishment and rehabilitation to bring those systems to a top operational condition. The bills are in the billions for bridges and elevated highway sections, and for the strengthening and restoration of millions of lane-miles of roadways. While infrastructure presents a great opportunity for boosting the job count, a lot of the work is both highly technical...