Newt Gingrich declares war on reVolting electric cars

The next stop in the culture wars is the electric car. Newt Gingrich has declared that President Obama now threatens Americans’ right to choose the type of car that they want to drive. At the center of this nefarious plot are electric cars like the Chevrolet Volt. In a recent speech to an Oral Roberts University audience in Tulsa, Gingrich said that Obama’s championing of hybrid electric-gas technology makes him “the most dangerous president in modern American history.”

Gingrich suggested that, even worse, electric cars somehow affect Americans’ Second Amendment right to bear arms. ““Let me start with a simple premise that most Oklahomans will understand,” he said. “You cannot put a gun rack on a Volt.”

The Christian Science Monitor analyzes how Gingrich’s position reflects the Republicans Party’s tortured relationship with green technology and the auto industry that killed and resurrected electric cars. The GOP isn’t happy that the Obama administration’s 2013 budget includes a proposal for an “advanced vehicle technology credit” which allows purchasers to write off $10,000 on their taxes. (Though there is still confusion over who will actually be eligible for the credit.)

The Republican Party, which is happy to launch class warfare salvos when they can benefit, wants to end a tax break that they believe favors the wealthy. Obama’s plan also links him to the much-despised Detroit bailout that allowed electric cars to continue to make slow but steady inroads into Americans car buying habits. (Though why conservatives continue to attack the move that single-handedly saved Michigan on the eve of the primary there is inexplicable.)

Republicans also have another cudgel in their car culture arsenal. They see a means to tie the president up in knots as the price of gas rises in the run up to the summer travel season, although the all-too-real prospect of an Iran-Israel confrontation might make $4.00 a gallon gas seem like a bargain. Some experts are predicting $5 a gallon gas prices by spring.

Yet the higher the price of the gas goes, the more attractive an electric car becomes. Local car dealers are finding that environmentally conscious car drivers have been the early adopters. The average driver will wait until prices come down to earth, since the sticker price for a Volt runs well north of $30,000, but some businesses are discovering that the initial investment pays off in over the long run.

A new study by MIT’s Center for Transportation and Logistics found that electric trucks’ operating costs are up to 12 percent less than conventional vehicles. Staples, the office supply chain, has 53 electric delivery trucks on the road in several cities across the country.

As for gun racks in Volts, Newt Gingrich’s remarks prompted another Georgia Republican to prove him wrong: a driver can, in fact, put a gun rack in a Volt.  “It’s like a frigging spaceship,”  Atlanta resident John McDole said about the car.. “I am totally razzed about it.”

General Motors, the maker of the Volt, isn’t going to let a golden opportunity to promote the Volt at the expense of the hapless Gingrich slip away either. “Fuel efficiency — not the availability of a gun rack — is one of the top purchase considerations for all new vehicles,” a Chevy spokesman told USA Today. “However, if accessories for the Volt are that important to Mr. Gingrich, we’ll gladly send him a product brochure.”

                                                                                                                                                            –GABRIELLE GURLEY

BEACON HILL

Inspector General Gregory Sullivan is questioning the legality and fairness of a 2003 deal between the Boston Redevelopment Authority and the Boston Red Sox, CommonWealth reports. The IG also warns that the MBTA’s Ride program for disabled riders is “ripe for fraud, waste and abuse.”

Some of the bottlenecks facing casino proposals will be the traffic bottlenecks their projects will cause, the Globe reports.

The Boston Herald editorializes against using the state’s rainy day fund to bolster the T’s finances.

The Cape Cod Times says the state needs to act to relieve communities from the burden of unfunded mandates.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Lawrence expects to collect at least $400,000 by charging for parking downtown. A private company hired by the city is issuing the tickets, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

An 18-year battle between Marblehead neighbors comes to an end as Wayne Johnson’s $1 million harborside dream house is torn down, the Lynn Item reports.

NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON

The White House proposes lowering corporate income taxes in return for closing tax loopholes. The Wall Street Journal editorial page rails against an effort to raise tax rates on dividends.

Conservative darling Chris Christie opens the purse strings in New Jersey.

ELECTION 2012

Gov. Deval Patrick is named a co-chair of President Obama’s reelection campaign, the AP reports (via the Lowell Sun). The Globe reports that Obama’s fundraising numbers for last month lag those from January of 2008, and speculates that this might have something to do with his sudden call for donations to his so-called super PACs.

Tonight’s debate in Arizona is high-stakes for Mitt Romney. Fundraising woes are also dogging Romney. He has more maxed-out donors than rival campaigns, and Nate Silver is alarmed by the rate at which the campaign is burning cash, given the expensive and protracted primary road ahead. Even David Bernstein, in a blog post that argues Romney is ahead of where he thought he’d be, calls the campaign’s fundraising efforts “embarrassing.”

The New York Times looks at what it’s calling a new breed of GOP super-donor.

Bill Shein, an Alford technology consultant, has entered the Democratic primary for the First Congressional District seat to challenge incumbent US Rep. Richard Neal.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Keller@Large looks at the impact of cuts at Hansom Air Force Base, with one area Chamber of Commerce official saying with more than a tad of hyperbole the cuts could cost the region 16,000 jobs and a $5 billion hit to the economy.

Former Harvard president and Obama economic advisor Lawrence Summers talks with Emily Rooney about gas prices, economic recovery and stimulus.

South Coast area lawmakers and elected officials testified in support of a home rule petition yesterday that would exempt a proposed Freetown office building by medical software developer Meditech from Massachusetts Historical Commission oversight, even though Meditech has already killed the proposal.

The Dow Jones industrial average closes just shy of 13,000, AP reports.

The McMansion makes a comeback.

EDUCATION

Students, protesters, and administrators at Bridgewater State University held a campus anti-hate rally yesterday to show support for a student newspaper writer who was attacked after writing an editorial in support of gay marriage.

The US Supreme Court will address he issue of affirmative action in higher education, agreeing to hear a case brought by a white student denied a spot at the University of Texas, the AP reports (via Governing).

The University of New Haven is offering free tuition worth $120,000 to four freshman who win a contest seeking the best entrepreneurial idea, the Hartford Courant reports.

In the wake of the second sexual assault complaint against Boston University’s hockey program in two months, the Herald reports on calls for the NCAA to take an interest in violence against women. Wendy Murphy tells the paper the NCAA is “more concerned with the athletes drinking beer or eating fatty foods than raping women.”

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

The Fall River City Council is seeking tighter restrictions on sewage discharge into the Taunton River, which flows into the bay.

COURTS/CRIMINAL JUSTICE

A key prosecution witness testified yesterday in the trial of two men charged in the 2010 execution-style killing of four people, including a 2-year-old toddler, in Mattapan.

The Supreme Judicial Court rules unanimously that hosts who did not provide the alcohol consumed at their party can’t be held liable for the injuries that result from a car accident involving a party guest driving while drunk.  

Retired federal judge Nancy Gertner argues that pending “three strikes” legislation is tough, but not smart, on crime.

MEDIA

A Vancouver news website is raising money by having its staff teach two-day workshops in the newsroom at prices ranging from $195 to $395, the Nieman Journalism Lab reports.