OPINION: It’s Time To Kill Electric Lemons

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Derek Hunter Contributor
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It’s an old joke but a true one: Whatever liberals don’t like, they ban. Everything else they want to make mandatory.

Nowhere is that truer than in the “green energy” sector. In the lame-duck session of Congress, Republicans have a chance to push back against this when it comes to one of the Democrats’ favorite boondoggles: subsidizing the electric car.

Remember Solyndra? The solar panel company touted as a success by the Obama administration that went out of business soon after a visit from President Obama in which he held them up as an example of success? That politically connected company cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars because while the “green” business model sounds great, it’s simply not ready for prime time.

Now, imagine that on a larger scale. That’s the story of the electric car.

Electric cars are touted as an important part of combating climate change — the idea that human activity is destroying the planet so it must be managed by bureaucrats. But aside from a few devotees, the public wasn’t interested in electric cars. Not because people hate the planet, but because they are expensive and inconvenient.

You can’t just stop at a gas station and charge your batteries like you can fill up with fuel and be on your way; it takes a while to charge batteries. Plus, electric cars are expensive. Batteries large enough to run a car for even a hundred miles cost a lot of money.

That last part — the cost — is something activists have been dealing with for decades. How do you get people to buy something inconvenient and less useful than something much cheaper and more reliable? All things being equal, electric cars would never have sold. But when liberal politicians want people to live a certain way, nothing is equal.

The government does what it always does when they want to “nudge” or control people into living a certain way; they subsidize it. And the subsidies to electric car makers make the Solyndra debacle look like the change found in your couch.

In the current tax code, taxpayers (all of us) are on the hook for billions of dollars in subsidies in the form of tax credits annually for people who buy electric cars. But the people who buy electric cars likely aren’t your neighbors — they’re wealthy liberals who can afford to spend twice as much on a car than the average American. Fully 78 percent of the subsidies go to people with incomes above $100,000.

For all the talk of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer, it’s odd to have leftists advocating for a massive wealth transfer from the middle class to the wealthy. Yet that’s what the current system does.

But maybe not for much longer.

The lame-duck Congress has a chance to end this ridiculous tax credit and save all of us billions of dollars going forward.

As Congress scrambles to pass the remaining budget items, one of the pet projects that could be ended is this credit, which subsidizes up to $7,500 of the cost of a new electric car with our money. And they should.

Working Americans shouldn’t be picking up a chunk of the tab of a car for people who make enough money to buy a car themselves. If someone wants an electric car, they’ll buy one.

Even some manufacturers of electric cars want them gone. Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors, said, according to the New York Times, the company would be better off without them. “Tesla’s competitive advantage improves as the incentives go away,” Musk said.

The market would pick winners and losers without the subsidy, not the government manipulating it. The cars people want would sell, the ones they don’t would go away. Frankly, if a company can’t sell its product without taxpayers helping foot the bill, it should go away. Tesla believes it can survive without it, and some of its competitors can’t. The government should allow that to happen across the entire market like it just did with the Chevy Volt.

General Motors announced this week they were discontinuing the Volt because people weren’t buying it, even with the subsidy. Imagine how the market would look, which other companies and products wouldn’t exist, were it not for the taxpayers cover a large part of the bill.

Part of power, a big part, is control; the ability to manipulate how others act. The tax code is riddled with mechanisms to control the public – do this and you get rewarded, do that and you have to pay. Every opportunity to eliminate that perverse power in the tax code should be taken.

Next week, Congress will have the opportunity to eliminate another piece of that control, to free the American people to make their own decisions and save us billions.

In the grand scheme of things, it’s a drop in the bucket, but every bucket is full of drops and you have to start somewhere. Getting us off the hook for subsidizing wealthy people’s “feel good” car purchases is as good of a place to start as any.

Derek Hunter is the host of The Daily Daily Caller Podcast.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.