Las Vegas Review-Journal December 10, 2021
The Democrats’ $1.9 trillion social “infrastructure” bill — misnamed the Build Back Better Act — is a Christmas list of progressive spending priorities, particularly when it comes to handouts for green special interests.
One might expect that Elon Musk, who has championed electric vehicles for decades and has relied on federal subsidy dollars and government emissions credits to keep Tesla alive, would be an ardent supporter.
Quite the opposite. Mr. Musk has apparently come to recognize that a government which spends indiscriminately and without limits will eventually create a climate that is hostile to innovation and entrepreneurship.
“Honestly, I would just can this whole bill,” Mr. Musk said this week during a speaking event sponsored by The Wall Street Journal, “Don’t pass it. That’s my recommendation. … Rules and regulations are immortal. They don’t die. The vast majority of rules and regulations live forever. … There’s not really an effective garbage collection system for removing rules and regulations, so this hardens the arteries of civilization where you are able to do less and less over time.”
Cynics might argue that Mr. Musk is unhappy that Democrats have left Tesla in the cold in order to pay off their Big Labor benefactors. Build Back Better includes higher subsidies for those who purchase plug-ins — but only those built by union labor. Tesla is not unionized. General Motors is.
But Tesla has already shown it can prosper without the subsidies — for two years it has been up against a cap limiting the handouts to the first 200,000 vehicles sold, yet has still increased market share. And as David Blackmon of Forbes pointed out, Mr. Musk is also critical of provisions in the bill that would directly benefit Tesla.
“When the moderator at the WSJ event pointed out that the bill contains billions in subsidies for the installation of new EV charging infrastructure,” Mr. Blackmon wrote, “Musk responded by saying ‘Unnecessary. Do we need support for gas stations? We don’t. I’m literally saying get rid of all subsidies.’”
Indeed, that might be Mr. Musk’s most sensible point, given how politicians across the land are clamoring to build government-run charging stations even as EVs constitute only about 2 percent of U.S. vehicle sales. Former Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval spent money the state received in the Volkswagen emissions scandal to construct charging stations in rural areas that remain lightly used.
The point isn’t that more charging stations aren’t necessary. But rather that private actors have proven time and again that they are better suited to react to public demand than elected officials spending other people’s money to appease vocal special interests. If the goal is to make it more convenient for EV drivers, better to rely on private investment rather than to hand out subsidies to utility companies who spread the costs among all rateholders.
Mr. Musk gets this one right.