Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The only thing politicians value more than money

One of the newest ways federal and state politicians are using to sneak tolling onto roads is a scheme called “congestion pricing.”

The idea is simple – charge higher tolls during rush hour, lower tolls on off hours.

Of course, first you have to add tolls. And they also never account for how the hours of service work for truckers, and how that – along with shipper and receiver schedules – affects when those truck drivers move through cities.

Plenty of truckers have voiced objections to congestion pricing. And many have suggested alternative schemes to cut congestion, or achieve other goals associated with this scheme.

While I like some of the ideas I’ve heard, they miss the real point. Officials may say this is about saving fuel or cutting congestion or helping the environment, but in reality, it’s about one thing – money.

You can always count on politicians to find new ways to take that money from you. And there’s only one thing they want more – votes.

The fact is, there are more four-wheelers than truckers, so it’s unlikely they would do anything that would punish the larger group of voters.

Also, why take cars off the highway. They want those cars out there. More cars means more tolls.

That’s why they like congestion pricing. It makes them look like they’re doing something, and it brings in the cash. As far as the politicos are concerned, everybody – at least everybody they care about – is happy.

That truckers get screwed isn’t on their radar now. It’s our job to put it there.

If you see one of these snake oil schemes in your state, call your lawmakers, and let them know you oppose congestion pricing. Tell them how it would affect you.

We need to make those politicians understand that this will cost them that one commodity they value more than money – votes.

Money for nothing …

Another aspect to the energy situation that has received attention from Congress is the granting of tax incentives to the oil companies, for such things as exploration.

Congress has indicated they’d like to do something different with that money … besides giving to mega-corporations that do nothing once they receive it.

One of the possibilities Congress has listed is research into alternative fuels.

A trucker who called us recently pointed out that many of those same oil companies do some of that research. Why, he asked, should we stop them from taking money out of our right pocket and then simply let them steal the same money from our left pocket?

Here’s a thought: How about we give some of that research money to our universities, and then make the results of that work public domain?

How many times have we heard about energy-saving discoveries by major corporations that were shelved? Remember what happened to all of the GM electric cars in California once the leases were up – the company crushed them. Although later, a GM official said they were “recycled” instead of simply crushed.

Although we’re no longer convinced that alternative fuels like biodiesel and ethanol are where we’re headed as a nation, the development of those industries is pretty instructive.

Small companies took government subsidies and used them to make those fuels viable, not mega-corporations. Small companies promoted them, developed them, pursued them. The big guys were Johnny-comes-latelys.

We clearly have to pursue some kind of alternative fuel. However, simply putting that task in the hands of the same companies that allowed the current crisis to occur makes no sense whatsoever.