State government is once again supplying just what residents have come to expect from state programs devised to make Oregon green: failure.
The Oregon Clean Vehicle Rebate Program was set up to subsidize the purchase of electric cars for Oregonians. Low and moderate income Oregonians can get the most — up to $2,500 toward a purchase. If you are curious if you could qualify, low and moderate income is defined as less than 120% of area median income for the household size. For the Bend-Redmond area that is $91,800 for a family of four.
Guess how many applications the state has processed for people of low and moderate income.
Zero. That’s since the program launched about two years ago.
“The state has received 4,004 applications for electric vehicle rebates,” according to the Willamette Week. “It has processed little over half of them. It has received 581 applications from low-income car buyers. It has processed none.”
It’s unfair to put all the blame on the state. AAA sued, arguing that under Oregon law the money raised from a 0.5% tax on new cars had to be used toward road repairs. The program was put on hold until that case was resolved. But the state also doesn’t have enough resources to even run the program.
You know who is particularly frustrated about this? Willamette Week quoted Jeff Allen, executive director of Forth, an electric vehicle advocacy group. One thing Willamette Week’s excellent article did not mention is that Forth is actually, in part, a front for electrical utilities, chargers for electric cars and electric car manufacturers. Small wonder they are so passionate about grabbing those tax dollars.
The Legislature has shown a real thirst to create programs to encourage Oregonians to get more green. It was one of the big promises built into the proposed carbon tax, House Bill 2020, that died this past session. But the problem-plagued Oregon Clean Vehicle Rebate Program isn’t the first time such programs have floundered. The most spectacular example is the BETC, the Business Energy Tax Credit. It was just as well-intentioned — aimed at giving tax breaks for green energy projects. It was abused and exploded into a mess. A New Mexico trucking company used it to try to collect millions in Oregon tax credits by registering trucks in Oregon, without really driving much in Oregon. A second example has been Oregon’s Clean Fuels Program. Fuel producers blocked public disclosure of important information about how the program really works.
So when legislators come back next year bursting with promises about how it will work, there are plenty of reasons not to believe them.