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Transport - Nov 12

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Bolivia holds key to electric car future

Damian Kahya, BBC News,
High in the Andes, in a remote corner of Bolivia, lies more than half the world's reserves of a mineral that could radically reduce our reliance on dwindling fossil fuels.

Lithium carries a great promise. It could help power the fuel efficient electric or petrol-electric hybrid vehicles of the future. But, as is the case with fossil fuels, it is a limited resource. Lithium carbonate is already in the batteries of laptop computers and mobile phones.

It is used because it allows more energy to be stored in a lighter, smaller space than most alternatives. And as the auto industry rushes to produce new fuel efficient and electric cars, it too is turning to lithium batteries as its first choice to boost the power of their new models.
(9 November 2008)

Obama Asks Bush to Back Rescue of Automakers

Lori Montgomery and Michael D. Shear, Washington Post
President-elect Barack Obama yesterday urged President Bush to support immediate aid for struggling automakers and back a new stimulus package, even as congressional Democrats began drafting legislation to give the Detroit automakers quick access to $25 billion by adding them to the Treasury Department's $700 billion economic rescue program.
(11 November 2008)

California's car tax may be on the road again

Editorial, Los Angelese Times
The vehicle license fee that got Gray Davis recalled and Arnold Schwarzenegger elected looks like a good idea again.

... The car tax is a smarter choice than a sales tax for digging out of the current budget hole. Asking Californians to pitch in through their vehicle registration fees rather than at the cash register would have fewer negative effects on sales, which we can expect to be diminished too much already in the coming months.

Sales taxes are regressive: They take a higher percentage of household income from the poor than from the rich. A 1999 California Policy Research Center study found vehicle license fees to be nearly as regressive, but at least the proceeds are unrestricted and could be used to bail the state out of its mess. Because of voter fiat, sales taxes paid at the gas pump are off limits for any use but transportation. Local government also claims a share. Another advantage of car taxes: They are deductible from federal income tax. Try deducting your sales tax on your 1040 form and see how far you get.
(11 November 2008)
Comment from Kevin Drum.

Invest in Australian toll roads? No thanks!

Antonia Magee and Tony Grant-Taylor, Courier-Mail (Australia)
Original: "BrisConnections investor Fang He faces $65m charge"

FANG He has a $64.6 million dilemma - she has become the biggest individual shareholder of Airport Link toll road builder BrisConnections.

The Melbourne woman's status comes after recently picking up 20 million units for just $20,000.

The purchase took her total holding to 32.3 million units - which means that in April she will be legally obliged to stump up $32.3 million for the second $1 share instalment on the toll road group's units.

... Until late October, BrisConnections units were looking like a great investment because it was promising a 5.95c dividend at the end of March next year. But the group has since slashed the dividend to 0.05c and will not pay it until after the second $1 instalment is due on its partly paid units on April 29. Turnover in the number of units traded has been in the millions with day traders piling into the penny dreadful.

But like Mrs Fang, they are legally liable for the $1 April payment, with a third $1 instalment, or another $32.3 million in her case, due in January 2010.
(10 November 2008)
Stuart McCarthy wrote:
This highlights the absurdity of pressing on with existing tollway expansions in the face of peak oil, the world financial crisis, and seriously flawed traffic forecasting. Over the next six months or so a number of new multi-billion dollar tollway ventures in Australia will likely fold.

UPDATE (12 Nov) Revised Stuart's comments slightly at his request. -BA

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