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Transition Woes; The Hybrid Challenge


November 18, 2004
Copyright © 2004 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All Rights Reserved.

Transition woes

The rush to undertake a government transition with a committee of private citizens appointed by a gubernatorial candidate not yet certified to have won the recent election is a bad idea poorly executed.

The excuse that a law passed in the wake of the last transition–notorious as it was for its late start–requires the candidate preliminarily certified the winner to commence such transition is just that, an excuse. When passing that law, the Legislature clearly didn’t anticipate the present situation. And if it did, it passed a bad law, one whose enforcement no reasonable judge would mandate if asked for a declaratory judgment to exempt from its compliance.

The point is Anibal Acevedo Vila had the unique opportunity to put his conciliatory and bipartisan speech into action. If he had demonstrated more restraint, he would have attained a higher stature even in the eyes of his political opposition. His refusal to do so might cost him later if he is finally certified the winner.

After all, what’s the rush? If we all have to wait patiently for the final, official result to make sure the people’s will is respected, why shouldn’t the person aspiring to lead that people do the same. Can you imagine a presumptively elected President George W. Bush in 2000 insisting on barreling through a transition with the outgoing Clinton administration, regardless of the outcome of the Florida recount and its ensuing lawsuits and appeals all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court? Of course not.

In the end, many were disappointed in the results, but all, including Al Gore, were satisfied that the best interests of democracy had been served by letting the process take its course as freely as possible from political pressure.

Why can’t we do the same?

The hybrid challenge

No, we’re not referring to the prospect of a split local government. We’re referring to hybrid cars, the latest breakthrough in automotive technology that’s taking the local and stateside markets by storm.

Although the internal combustion engine has had other potential challengers during its 100-year history, hybrid cars–powered by a gasoline engine while in motion and by an electric motor while idle–represent the first time these have moved beyond the prototype stage to mass production.

And the consensus among experts is that hybrids are here to stay. Ford Motor Co. CEO Bill Ford, for example, projects that within two decades, 75% of all cars sold on the U.S. mainland will be hybrids.

In Puerto Rico, Toyota has sold 400 of its hybrid Prius since the vehicle’s introduction in October 2003. Local Toyota dealers, like those of other automakers with hybrid models, would sell more if only they could get Japan to send more this way. On the mainland, there are more than 20,000 customers on a five-month waiting list for the Prius.

The point is automakers can’t turn out these hybrid cars fast enough to meet the high demand. Undoubtedly, their 50- to 60-mile-per-gallon performance when gasoline is retailing for $1.80 per gallon is enough to offset the couple thousand dollars more these hybrids cost compared with their gasoline-powered counterparts.

For stateside consumers, there’s also the incentive of a federal tax break. The U.S. government has figured these cars are so good for energy and environmental conservation that it allows federal taxpayers a partial deduction on their income tax return.

Consumers in Puerto Rico have no such incentive. During the recently concluded electoral campaign, Popular Democratic Party resident commissioner candidate Roberto Prats suggested adopting a similar incentive here. His idea merits consideration.

Right now, there’s so much demand for these cars that it appears no incentive is needed, but that’s bound to change. As explained in our front-page story today, automakers are cranking up production and soon will have enough to go around. So, if we want to encourage energy conservation and environmental protection on this car-ridden island of 100 x 35 miles, we had better step up to the hybrid challenge.

This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.
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