I like Consumer Reports. They do what nobody else does — they buy products with their own money and evaluate them in a series of rigorous trials to see how they stand up in the real world. If you are looking for the best electric toothbrush or the most durable garbage disposal for your kitchen, they are the source of the best and most accurate information. So it comes as a surprise that the organization could let itself get drawn into the great EV versus gas tax debate and become part of the anti-EV FUD that is so prevalent in the news and on social media today.
The latest story from CR says fuel taxes account for 84% of federal and 29% of state highway funds. “But where will the funding come from when more and more drivers switch to electric vehicles?” it asks. Well, let’s stop right there. They just said only 29% of state highway funds come from fuel taxes. The other 71%, by definition, comes from general revenues, which come from the taxes everyone pays, including EV drivers.
“The road tax is built into the price of gas. That money goes to support road infrastructure. And EVs don’t fuel up, so electric car drivers don’t contribute in that way,” says Gabe Shenhar, associate director of the auto testing program at Consumer Reports. “For now, EVs are a small portion of the market. But this is something to consider, as EV sales increased from 2.1 percent in 2020 to 2.8 percent in 2021, and they’re going to continue to grow.”
Figures Lie & Liars Figure
Is there a problem with CR’s analysis? Oh, you bet your sweet bippy there is. By narrowing their focus, they miss the big picture. For an organization as old and experienced as Consumer Reports, that can’t be a mistake. It has to be deliberate. Where is the discussion of the enormous direct and indirect subsidies the fossil fuel industry receives every year? The IMF says those total FIVE TRILLION DOLLARS A YEAR! Are we to believe the people at CR don’t know about those subsidies, don’t know about the negative health risks associated with burning fossil fuels, and don’t know about the fine particulates that lodge in the brains of young people and the placentas of pregnant women?
Is Consumer Reports clueless or is it deliberately lying, just as the fossil fuel companies lie every day in their pursuit of profits even as the Earth warms, species die, mass migrations ensue, massive droughts and forest fires occur, and sea level rise affects most of the world’s major cities? Do they care that fossil fuel pollution impacts communities of color much more than the places where white people live? Nope. All they care about is that those who continue to pollute the environment don’t have to pay too much for the privilege of degrading the Earth for their convenience.
Here’s another example. If you read the news, you may have read that a black woman voted illegally in Tennessee. Oooooh, scary! But you won’t read that blacks are 18% of the population in the Volunteer State but 36% of those in jail are black and 42% of those in prison there are black. You also won’t read about the draconian, Jim Crow era laws in Tennessee that guaran-damn-tee — as Al Gore liked to say — that black people convicted of crimes in Tennessee will never, ever be allowed to vote again. There’s some democracy in action right there.
So by focusing all the attention on one woman, you breathe life into the lie that millions of people voted illegally in the last election and draw attention away from the real problem, which is that black citizens in Tennessee are disproportionately targeted by the legal system. (Don’t call it a justice system. It is anything but.)
What Can Be Done?
Consumer Reports has a number of suggestions about how to deal with this problem. Tax EVs more but not too much. Increase tolls on roads and bridges for everyone. Make everyone pay a per mile assessment, but that doesn’t take into account the massive disparity between a Hummer EV and an Aptera.
The real solution, of course, is to do away with gas taxes all together and fund road maintenance out of general revenues. We don’t tax children to cover the cost of replacing windows and furnaces in our schools. Most states don’t even collect sales tax for online purchases. All this hoopla about taxes is a misdirection play designed to drive a wedge between those who drive a conventional car and those who dare to drive a zero emissions vehicle.
Consumer Reports states blithely, “Most EV drivers benefit from a $7,500 federal tax incentive.” That is a flat out, blatant lie. 70% of EV sales in America are Teslas, which have not been eligible for the federal EV tas credit for almost two years. Not only that, many people who were eligible for the credit only qualified for a portion of it. Once again, CR is playing fast and loose with the truth to serve its own agenda. Its credibility as an independent, non-partisan authority suffers as a result.
If Consumer Reports is lying about EVs and taxation, how can anything it says in the world of transportation be trusted? Way to shoot yourself in the foot, CR. It’s going to be a while before people see you as anything more than just another shill for the fossil fuel industry and cars that burn gasoline. Is that really the way you want to be viewed as the EV revolution continues to accelerate?