California Agency Plans 'Green' Car Vouchers for the Poor

Remember how well Cash for Clunkers worked out?


SACRAMENTO — One longtime critic of federal transportation spending once concluded that it would be less expensive for the government to buy every new transit rider a Jaguar XJ8 than it would be to build certain new rail systems. Unfortunately, California officials may not have realized that the idea of buying people new cars wasn't a serious proposal as much as a way to illustrate a point about excessive spending.

The California Air Resources Board is now embarking on a program that would help poor people buy energy-efficient vehicles. In one scenario posed by the agency, a "voucher" might even pay the full price for a Nissan Leaf, an electric car with an MSRP above $21,000, or for used cars with lower price tags.

In a staff report released on Nov. 19, the agency analyzes its Enhanced Fleet Modernization Program authorized in 2007. Funded by a $1 surcharge on vehicle registrations, the $30-million-a-year program is essentially a "cash for clunkers" deal. It provides motorists with $1,000 to $1,500 to retire their high-polluting vehicles.

The board also sponsors a pilot program that provides up to $4,000 for certain motorists to ditch their old cars and buy late-model, cleaner vehicles. The board admits that the current program is "overly complicated" and "highly bureaucratic," so it's looking for ways to streamline and expand it so that more people take advantage of the assistance.

Two new laws enable this effort. AB 8 extended the life of the $1 surcharge until 2024. And SB 459 directs the agency to offer vouchers at "no less than $2,500." There is no apparent maximum. The law authorizes "an increase in the compensation for low-income vehicle owners as necessary to balance maximizing air quality benefits while ensuring participation." One goal, as explained in the SB 459 fact sheet, is to promote "transportation justice."

Apparently, wealthy people already are benefiting from subsidies to high-end electric car makers such as the Tesla. This law brings car subsidies directly to lower-income people. The law was authored by Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Calabassas, recently named one of two Legislators of the Year by the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers for her efforts to promote cleaner air.

In a chart in the staff report, the Air Resources Board looks at the potential "incentive" that would be needed to encourage people to buy the desired type of car. It finds, for instance, the agency would need to pay the "full cost" of a vehicle for a family of two to buy a new electric car or $18,000 for a family of three to buy a used hybrid. The agency isn't saying that it will necessarily provide such large subsidies, but the report does lay the groundwork for much larger subsidies than are now available.

The program's goal is to get dirty cars off the streets, explained Stanley Young, spokesman for the Air Resources Board. The agency wants to "make sure low-income people can also get into these clean vehicles." It is looking for that "sweet spot," he said, by trying to "find the balance between what they can afford and where state funds could be used."

Some of the report's findings are pretty obvious. It concluded that people tend to junk "high emitters" that are "generally at end-of-life." It also found that "older vehicles tend to be registered in lower-income areas." Well, yes. But it's easy to see where this program is going.

"(S)taff is evaluating a structural change where the outreach and function of the program is moved to an arena where people are already motivated to make a change: the vehicle dealership," according to the report. One would expect car dealers to be happy to accept vouchers for new-car purchases.

Young says the agency will have discussions, develop a pilot program, do more research, then come up with regulations and have a series of public hearings. So the process is in place, although the details of the subsidy and the means-testing formulas have not yet been decided. Californians won't soon be driving brand-new subsidized Jaguars, but the program isn't as far off from that idea as one might suspect.

NEXT: Little More than 10 Percent of Washington State Obamacare Signups for Private Insurance, Mostly Medicaid Enrollment

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  1. Progressives refuse to accept how overall less fucked up so many things would be if government had avoided market intervention in the first place. Like transportation. This green car crap is such a half ass solution to what they think is a problem.

  2. One goal, as explained in the SB 459 fact sheet, is to promote "transportation justice."

    Yeah...I'm sure Tony favors a market approach though.

    1. Hmmmm, so the solution is not to get rid of the subsidy for rich folks who don't need it, but to add an even larger subsidy for the poor?

      Then, when these unreliable things break down, the poor won't be able to afford repairs. Or it will get stolen within about 15 minutes of them parking it on their street. They are too poor for garages, I 'm sure, so now we will need a program to build them all rooftop garages. When some of those collapse, we will need a program to reinforce all the houses with Reardon steel. 🙂

  3. Your state is effectively broke and you're still on the "free stuff" bandwagon?

    Eject them from the union.

    1. Better yet, eject the unions from them.

    2. Eject them from the union.

      What? No. California is a necessary canary in the coal mine for the rest of the country.

      As long as it's not Federal dollars, I'm all for CA spending their money on all kinds of wacky ideas. Some will, inevitably, turn out to be right while the rest will provide useful data to the rest of the country.

      1. [Some will, inevitably, turn out to be right]

        Not holding my breath.

      2. Federal dollars are the only thing keeping Ca. from going tits up.

  4. Uh, that car is blue.

    1. Around the gills?

    2. But can it be driven upside down in a tunnel?

  5. So, subsidized trains AND subsidized cars?

    Way to go, California.

    1. Its like, if they love trains so much, maybe they shouldn't have forced the private ones to deal with unions, imposed economic regulation on them, and subsidized their competition. Then maybe a few would have had a chance of staying profitable.

      1. But they also believe that profit is eeeevil.

        1. I gotta learn to do shorter posts.

      2. sure, but they might have earned profits and we can't have that sort of thing. Profits mean someone else is losing.

  6. Maybe there should be some absolute limit in state and federal constitutions on how much can be spent per capita on any program. I suppose that could be evaded, but when you break down some spending that way, the results are sometimes quite appalling.

    Would be nice if some sort of ROI were involved, too.

    1. Yeah, it can be evaded. Just make more duplicate programs.

  7. OT: My cousin just called me to let me know about the World Cup draw. We got the Group of Death: US, Ghana, Portugal, Germany. Shit.

    1. Well, maybe Klinsmann has some special insight to help us deal with Germany. I hope.

      1. We're going to need something. Germany and Portugal are both top 5 teams. Also, the last couple times we played Ghana in the WC, it didn't work out so well.

        I actually wonder if this was rigged.

        1. At this point....what difference does it make ?

        2. It's occurred to me that if the U.S. ever appeared capable of winning the World Cup that FIFA would drone murder the team. I mean, fuck the U.S., right? They can't win everything!

          1. I think they did the scheduling equivalent of a drone strike.

            1. Nobody drone strikes us. Guess we'll just have to advance in defiance.

    2. What is that - 3rd Cup in a row? And freaking Ghana AGAIN?

      1. Yeah, I'm starting to think it's not coincidence.

    3. It's not a group of death.

  8. If Cal Worthington was running around California with an infra red optical exhaust scanner and offering the drivers of smog-emitting junkers a fifteen hundred dollar trade-in at one of his dealerships, people would accuse him of taking advantage of people.

    *And, yes, Cal is still dead.

  9. Would be nice if some sort of ROI were involved, too.

    Go ahead, play the slavery card, Scrooge McDuck.

  10. What the heck does transportation justice really mean? Maybe we should take a cue from these guys and start attaching "justice" to everything we like. Self-defense justice. Tax justice. Thought justice. Get-off-my-lawn justice.

    1. "What the heck does transportation justice really mean?"

      It means 'Living Wage'! And 'Food Desert'! And 'Fair Share'!

    2. Sounds like an interesting idea.

      To me "justice" means you get what you deserve, not whatever you want.

    3. Remember the old quip about "military justice is to justice as military music is to music"? Here's the rule of thumb: any time you have to start attaching adjectives to a principle, chances are you're not talking about that principle anymore. "Economic justice"? If it were really justice, you would just call it that.

      1. Here's the rule of thumb: any time you have to start attaching adjectives to a principle, chances are you're not talking about that principle anymore.

        Consider this rule of thumb stolen.

    4. I'm confused, I thought transportation justice was poor people having the option to take a $200 highspeed wondertrain, instead of having to stick with a $100 plane ticket, or an even cheaper car trip.

      1. I think most California Liberals would be perfectly OK with Central Valley peasants having the option of seeing the high speed wonder train zoom by as they work the fields. As far as having to sit in the train beside a common laborer with a sun burnt neck, well most Liberals consider red-necks to be beneath them.

  11. Why is it so hard to understand that the best way to help poor people (and well, everyone) is to grow the economy so that everyone benefits. Get out of the way and let the pie grow on it's own you ignorant fucks. Stop trying to slice it up into ever small pieces. There won't be anything left. FUCK. You really can't fix stupid.

    1. They either don't think everyone will get a bigger piece of the pie, or they measure everything by enviously comparing themselves to the richest of the rich. And if the rich get rich faster than the poor get rich, then that is social injustice.

    2. larry hammond|12.6.13 @ 1:16PM|#
      "Why is it so hard to understand that the best way to help poor people (and well, everyone) is to grow the economy so that everyone benefits"
      The invisible hand is invisible.

      1. Yes, but the effects certainly aren't. You would think they could determine causality without seeing the direct input given their professed love of science.

        1. larry hammond|12.6.13 @ 1:30PM|#
          "Yes, but the effects certainly aren't."

          That's where we run into willful ignorance.
          That result does not fit the narrative and since it *can* be denied, it will be.


      it's good though

  12. Not everyone deserves a bigger piece of the pie, but if they just get out of the way and stop being some incomprehensibly dumb then most will be better off whether they deserve it or not. The true irony is that a healthy economy kicks out a LOT more tax revenue that they could waste on their stupid projects.

  13. the best way to help poor people (and well, everyone) is to grow the economy so that everyone benefits.

    It's a combination of zero sum economics and dog-in-the-manger politics. They would rather see the pie shrink than allow differently sized pieces of an overall bigger pie be served.

  14. my neighbor's mother makes 63 BUCKS every hour on the laptop. She has been out of work for 7 months but last month her pay check was 15302 BUCKSjust working on the laptop for a few hours. Learn More Here

    1. whorin' is good money

    2. Read the fine print there?

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  15. "Apparently, wealthy people already are benefiting from subsidies to high-end electric car makers such as the Tesla. "

    That's largely true. "Green" car subsidies go to a certain religious well to do who can afford to plunk down 30k+ for a car that makes then feel self righteous.

    1. You won't find any Tesla's for less than $60K.

  16. OT: Check out this Libertarian Goddess!!!


  17. OT: NY starts gun confiscation! http://www.foxnews.com/us/2013.....ns-rifles/

  18. During the 1973-4 Fuel Crisis the Wall Street Journal actually ran an article on how only wealthy people were able to afford new gas-saving small cars, while the poor were stuck driving the used luxury cars nobody wanted.

    My friends and I had great fun with this concept. We feigned admiration for the rich folks putting along in their Pintos, Vegas and Gremlins, and bemoaned the plight of the needy forced to cruise down the highway in Lincoln Town Cars and Cadillac Fleetwoods.

  19. my classmate's aunt makes 85/hour Dollars on the laptop. She has been laid off for 6 months but last month her pay was 18264 Dollars just working on the laptop for a few hours. go now

  20. If all of the people in this country took advantage of every "free" dollar programs that the government has developed to try to enhance the black race, our country would be bankrupt. I say we should all start finding every single free dollar program and take advantage of it. Destroy socialism with socialism. Document the decline so it's ugly head will not regrow.

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