My Statement to the Virginia DMME

Today is the last day you can leave comments for the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals, and Energy with respect to an electric car rebate for both new and used Electric Vehicles. If you do wish to leave comments, please try to watch the video attached to the comments form.

For the record, here is my testimony:

Thank you Delegate Reid for proposing HB717. I am sorry it’s taken so long for me to add my testimony but what I want to say is to add, as I said in my committee testimony, that providing Rebates on new and used Electric Cars has long-term CO₂ benefits. Considering first when someone is interested in buying their first vehicle. If we put a rebate on that first vehicle, new or used, then the buyer will be more inclined to stick with electric for the second, third, and fourth car. What’s more, it makes her family more likely to continue the tradition of an electric car family.

Secondly, some of the most polluting vehicles in our Commonwealth are owned by those Virginians of lesser means. The problem for them is that electric cars are too expensive, even used electrics. We need a rebate that puts the $5,000 LEAF into the hands of those folks who now drive the most polluting ICE vehicles of all. This would give us the biggest bang for the buck. They are also usually the least fuel efficient vehicles, and thus moving them to use fuel generated right here in the Commonwealth would greatly reduce our local fuel imports.

That is why we need a rebate of the maximum amount for both the cheapest of vehicles and for first time car buyers.

This is also why it must be a Rebate at the dealership. It shouldn’t be like Maryland where the application is submitted and the buyer has to wait for money allocated in the General Fund. The Virginia bill should be based on a fuel tax, in this case, I think a tax should be passed on all coal and natural gas (CH₄, methane) plants which generate power for the electric car. That would have the dual benefit of pushing Dominion to move more of its generation to renewable. Since electric cars will be generating more revenue for the Power Utilities, using a tax on Dominion to pay for more revenue for Dominion seems very apropos. What’s more, this will get us out of the trap of waiting for more money from the General Fund when many used vehicle drivers can’t afford to wait that long. Indeed, ideally, if the dealership could apply the rebate and then file it with the Commonwealth to be reimbursed, then this would be idea for first time electric car buyers. If that can’t be done, having the dealership file the paperwork and send the check to the buyer would be acceptable.

Beyond that, please consider not the MSRP of a vehicle when setting the cap on the Rebate, but rather the value used to generate property tax. None of the feature add-ons like Tesla Autopilot should put a vehicle outside of the price cap. AutoPilot is a feature that makes electric cars safer, and pricing it out of the rebate could result in fewer cars with that feature and thus less safe vehicles.

I think the Maryland cap of $60,000 is good for Virginia as we are similar states. I would also accept $50,000, which is still available to the base model Tesla if Autopilot is ignored. But the top of the cap should be graded, such that, if the cap is $50,000, a $49,000 vehicle gets a maximum of $1,000, a $48,000 gets $2,000 max, until the price goes down to a point where the full cap can be realized. That would alleviate any shock by the price going up astronomically at $50,001.

As for how to scale the rebate, I would like our goal to be based on the total number of vehicle registrations in the Commonwealth. Ideally, we should target total registrations, like 1% of all vehicles registered in Virginia be the goal for full funding, and 2% of all registrations be 66% of the rebate, and 3% of all registrations grant 33% of the rebate. I don’t think those are necessarily the best drawdown numbers, but I think the drawdown should be in those terms.

Finally, as I said, first and cheapest cars should get the biggest rebate, regardless. But for vehicles not in those categories, that still fall under the price caps, I’d like a sliding scale based on the battery pack size. Any battery rated at least 10kWh or more would qualify for the full rebate, but each kWh less removes 10% from the rebate. Thus, a 5kWh battery gets 50% of the rebate.

Thank you for reading my comments and I look forward to the final report.

Testimony by Jeffrey C. Jacobs to the Virginia DMME

I’m quite fond of the sliding scales in terms of tapering rather than full cutoff for the rebate and the reduced payout for smaller electric car batteries. I didn’t mention the poverty rate and left it vague in those terms, letting others fill in those details. I also spelled Delegate Reid’s name incorrectly, though it is fixed here.

The DMME plans to have its final report ready around October so it’ll be interesting if they incorporate any of my ideas into the final bill. I wish I could have attended the original public session but the news got to me too late. This is all I could do.

I miss cruising upon a cloud these days, but I hope this passes so more can enjoy the pleasure!

The Copernicus Complex: Our Cosmic Significance in a Universe of Planets and Probabilities

Because of the issues with #CO2Fre’s tyre, it only just finished this book in time for our meeting today.

I started this book right after finishing 18 Miles: The Epic Dreams of Our Atmosphere and Its Weather. Overall, I found the book a bit repetitive but it does bring up some interesting topics. I think the conclusion of we being born of both order and chaos is a nice ides given other books I’ve read that go into great detail on how unusual it is for biologic life to arise and how even more astronomical the odds are that a bacterium would take up residence in an archaea to make eukaryotes.

The survey of extrasolar planetary configurations was fun, however. I love the description of unusual systems like tight packing of planets, binary star systems, and life evolving on a Gas Giant moon. Although there are multiple ways a binary star system could have planets. For instance, one could have one star is a large (but not huge) one like our sun, and the other is a red dwarf, a bit larger than Jupiter, with the planet orbiting only the major star. But what Caleb Scharf seems to present is something more akin to two stars of relatively close mass orbiting one another tightly and a planet much farther out which orbits them both. In the later case, the idea that suns eclipse each other in regular cycles making the nature of a solar-centric universe much more amenable to budding intelligent life was a great and interesting flight of fancy that will help inform my better authorship of Science Fiction.

My main nit goes back to the first issue, though, with the mention of Antonie van Leeuwenhoek in the prologue. I thought the author did better introducing astronomical elements than he did biological elements and it was in the biological sections in which I was bogged down.

I am happy though to concede that with the modified Drake equation: \(N = R_* \cdot f_p \cdot n_e \cdot f_i \cdot f_e \cdot f_i \cdot f_c \cdot L\) where,

  • \(R_*\): the average rate of star formation in a galaxy
  • \(f_p\): the fraction of those stars that have planets
  • \(n_e\): the average number of planets that can potentially support life per star that has planets
  • \(f_i\): the fraction of planets that could support life that actually develop life (like bacteria or archaea) at some point
  • \(f_e\): the fraction of planets with life (like bacteria or archaea) that develop complex life (like eucaryotes)
  • \(f_i\): the fraction of planets with complex life (like eucaryotes) that actually go on to develop intelligent life (civilizations)
  • \(f_c\): the fraction of civilizations that develop a technology that releases detectable signs of their existence into space
  • \(L\): the length of time for which such civilizations release detectable signals into space

We know \(R_*\) is about three percent more stars per year, and that \(f_p\) is often greater than one, perhaps an average of four in modern surveys. \(n_e\) is a little harder to determine as we generally define it as a goldilocks zone, but as the book points out, life with radically different chemistry could have a different universal solvent than water. Methane, CH₄, for instance. \(l_i\) is a harder one but it seems this may indeed be quite common in any planet large enough to have plate tectonics and a hot core. The harder question is if \(l_e\) is common or not. As we don’t exactly know how eucaryotes evolved or, more specifically, how such a symbiosis could evolve so stably without consuming it. Finally, \(f_i\), \(f_c\), and \(L\) are all based on how intelligent life evolves and sustain itself, which, again, we have only one data point and can’t draw any conclusions from that at all. The main point though is we are getting closer to answering the first five terms at least and all are looking, even \(f_e\), a bit like we are not alone.

One of the most interesting aspects, however, were the Zodiacal Light display. I never knew that was possible and now I definitely have it added to my Bucket List. It was fascinating to learn about all the planetary and extrasolar debris that just sits along the ecliptic plane. And I enjoyed the author’s discussions of the origin of our solar system and how it compares to the many other stellar systems possible.

Talking about how Copernicus made our universe more knowable by virtue of it being ordinary and nothing special was a great way of presenting the conundrum between Anthropocentrism and ubiquity implied by Copernicus. I think that is the most important conclusion: that we are both special and ubiquitous. That our journey to intelligent life was unique, but that there are many ways of for the universe to know itself, and we are only one of those ways.

The Copernicus Complex: Our Cosmic Significance in a Universe of Planets and Probabilities
The Copernicus Complex: Our Cosmic Significance in a Universe of Planets and Probabilities

Overall, the text could have been tighter and less repetitive but the overall conclusion seems sound. We are, indeed Unique and Ubiquitous. Now, on to, The Thing with Feathers: The Surprising Lives of Birds and What They Reveal About Being Human

See you later, my friendly fellow sapiosexuals!