If hardly anyone uses the new electric vehicle chargers in Port Orchard, spending public funds to install them will surely be a basis for frequent gripes about government spending.
Even though the amount was small compared with total spending, the cost of the charging stations can still be brought up whenever budgets are squeezed by the slowly growing (or shrinking) economy.
When questioning government spending, the number of dollars involved doesn’t always matter as much as an apparent lack of benefit compared with something else the dollars could have purchased.
It probably won’t help if gripes are answered by pointing to the intended economic stimulus that prompted the grant funding that paid half the cost, since it looks as though the stimulus effect itself can be reasonably questioned.
People are either going to accept the need for such government spending while we wait for the existence of a significant number of electric vehicles on our roads, or they won’t.
Since there are so few electric vehicles on the road, it won’t be surprising if the Port Orchard charging stations are rarely used in the near future.
Until electric vehicles are numerous, infrequent use of charging stations is an unavoidable part of making the transition.
Some privately funded charging stations may make sense to those who see them as a way to burnish their “green” image and attract customers, but the number is likely to remain small so long as there are few such vehicles on the road.
Electric veh-icles can only go as far as their batteries allow, so having a handful of private stations spread thinly over the land won’t make the transition easy.
If we really want to make it practical for people in urban areas to depend on electric vehicles, we probably have to spend public funds whether it’s an economic stimulus or not.
When someone considering the purchase of such a vehicle begins wondering how to get farther from home than the batteries allow, an absence of charging stations cannot be ignored.
Not everyone would be willing to buy an expensive vehicle that can only be driven within a limited range from home.
Too few such vehicles on the road means too little demand for charging stations to justify private investment, and the lack of stations reduces the demand for the vehicles themselves.
It’s a vicious circle that we may only be able to break out of by spending public funds to make more charging stations available.
Assuming that public funding for some of the first charging stations does increase the demand for electric vehicles, the transition can move along.
But then how do we end the public funding and let private investment take over the task of providing charging stations to a growing number of vehicles?
So long as government competes with private investment in the market, investors may see little to gain by providing the service.
We may break out of a vicious circle and find that we still don’t have an easy transition to providing the service through private enterprise.
If it weren’t for the apparent advantage in having a substantial number of electric vehicles in use, the task of getting it all started and then finding a way to stop depending on government funding might not seem worth doing.
The potential advantage isn’t just the purported “green” character of electric vehicles.
When gasoline prices rise, as they have more than once in the past few years, the impact on our economy is hard to ignore.
Consumers have to reduce what they spend on other goods and services in order to pay for the high-priced gasoline.
Electric energy will never be free, but there’s a good chance it can usually be produced at a lower price than an equivalent amount of gasoline.
A change from relying almost entirely on petroleum to having a large number of electric vehicles seems like a worthwhile thing to try.
A little arguing over how to make the transition is a small price to pay.
Bob Meadows is a
Port Orchard resident