What will power imaginary charging stations to power fantasy electric vehicles no one wants?
BY DAVID WOJICK
President Joe Biden wants the Federal Government to build 500,000 electric vehicle (EV) charging stations, at an estimated cost of around $178 billion (not including the probable need to upgrade existing local and community electrical systems, to handle the extra loads).
How might that work? Not very well, is how – especially as the country is forced to “transition” from abundant, reliable, affordable coal and natural gas (and nuclear?) electricity generation to intermittent, unreliable, weather-dependent, much more expensive wind and solar. This is truly a Fed funding fantasy.
The Feds build big stuff, like post offices, federal buildings, military bases, flood control dams and border walls. They do not build half a million EV charging stations, competing with the private sector. But just for fun let’s consider how they might try.
The simplest way is to just do it like a post office. The government buys the land, builds the station and hires more federal employees to operate them. We create a new agency, say the EV Charging Administration (EVCA), probably in the General Services Administration (GSA). It currently has a million full time employees, just like the Army. Oh wait, the Army only has 800,000.
The government buys the juice, plus snacks for the integral convenience store. No store! How do they pay for themselves? Oh, they don’t, they get an annual appropriation, just like the rest of the government, and run the national debt up a bit more. But the juice is still very expensive.
Maybe we don’t want that big an agency. So the Feds do it the way the Energy Department runs the national labs. These charging stations are government owned but contractor operated. It’s called GOCO, which appropriately rhymes with LOCO. In fact much of the Federal Government is like this. Many Feds are really branch chiefs overseeing a cadre of support contractors.
But this is still a huge, cumbersome, ongoing operation with a million or so employees (just not all Feds). The obvious alternative is to let private enterprise own and run the charging stations. The Federal Government would just fund their construction and let it go at that.
So instead we have – what, a $178 billion grant program? That is a heck of a lot of grants. So we would need a very large organization to process all the applications, pick all the winners. (Sorry, all the losers. Federal “green” energy programs always lose, and go bankrupt. So you taxpayers also lose.) That very large organization then administers the grants, whatever that means. There could be millions of applications, so we still need a huge EVCA, even for this “private enterprise.”
Who gets these 178 billion dollars in grants? A very good question! And will the grant size be $100,000 or $100,000,000 – or somewhere in between? It makes a big difference in who can apply.
One possibility is the utilities that sell the juice. After all, a big part of the cost, perhaps the biggest, will be paying the utilities to upgrade their distribution systems, so that these charging stations can work. This will be especially true in rural areas, such as along the 50,000 miles of interstate highways and hundreds of thousands of miles of other major highways. But even urban and suburban neighborhoods will need major upgrades.
Or how about having the gasoline companies do it? They already blanket the country with gas stations. In fact the charging stations could be at the gas stations, where cars already go. Plus, this way there would be lots of competition, unlike having the monopoly electric utilities do it. Mind you, giving the hated oil companies almost $200 billion in free money may be too hard for the green backers of EVs to accept.
However, some experts have opined that, since charging takes a long time, the stations should be at super markets, big box stores, fast food outlets and other amusements. Most of these places already have space for cars and some even have gas stations. Most of course have no experience pumping juice. But at least the customers would have something to do (spend money) while their cars are getting charged.
A fourth option is to give these many billions to the few existing companies that already build charging stations. They know how to do it. Mind you, they are very small and might choke on this much money.
Which leads to a fifth possibility – namely, only give these grants to teams of companies. The teaming requirement might be that they have the land, the know-how and the financial strength.
But then there’s still the pesky question of where to put all these stations? Grants should be made so as to get the proper geographic coverage; otherwise EVs will not work. Given this vast amount of free money they might get built where there is no need, such as in useless clusters, apportioned by congressional clout. Big financial losses would follow, of course, and further EV use would not be supported. But hey.
Clearly Congress will have its work cut out, deciding who to throw these enormously big bucks to, and how. And it will be a big job for the EVCA to throw it.
The basic point is that this is a stupid idea to begin with. If EV charging stations make money, then the private sector will build them.
The Federal Government has no business being in this business.
Self-Educated American Contributing Editor, David Wojick, is an independent analyst specializing in science, logic and human rights in public policy, and author of numerous articles on these topics.