Despite their high cost, safety dangers, environmental harms, and tendency to explode, electric cars are winning the hearts (and pens) of government officials throughout California. For example, Palo Alto, the home of luxury electric car maker Tesla, recently enacted legislation that requires all new homes to be wired for $2,000 electric vehicle charging stations. This government mandate is sure to undermine the development of a privately owned charging network.
In addition to electric car mandates, other California cities require homes to host solar pads. In March, Lancaster mandated solar production for all new homes. Sebastopol went further and now requires solar for new homes, remodels, and commercial buildings. And starting in 2014, California builders and renovators must ensure that buildings have “solar ready roofs.” This requirement will add an estimated $2,290 to the cost of new homes, force buildings to be oriented to the south, prevent roofs from being shaded, and keep roofs free of obstructions-such as chimneys, fans, and skylights. If a homeowner decides to actually install solar panels she will have to spend an additional $27,500.
These expensive government boondoggles hurt low-income Californians the most. Electric vehicle ownership and solar mandates redistribute wealth from the poor and middle class to wealthier homeowners. Those who can’t install solar because it is too expensive – i.e. the poor and middle class – are subsidizing those who can afford it. Accordingly, it is the poor and middle class that bear the burden of subsidies through higher taxes and expensive energy bills. The problem is becoming so dire that expensive alternative energy mandates have forced some people to obtain grants to pay soaring electric bills. Some have speculated that this may ultimately drive the middle class from California.
In addition to harming the economy and low-income Californians, the environmental benefits are dubious. Studies show that California’s acclaimed energy efficiency is due to a mild climate, large households, and migration, not expensive regulations. Electric cars cause as much environmental damage as conventional cars, and the high cost of new homes forces homeowners to remain in old inefficient ones.
These mandates are no longer just a California problem. Solar mandates are sweeping the country-even in states that experience snow 6 months a year. Sadly, instead of learning from California’s blunders, far too many are duplicating them.