Overhauling Transportation in Las Vegas with Electric Vehicles

Tony Hsieh (pronounced “Shay”), whose net worth is north of $800 million, is working on a plan to convert some of the 9000 taxis in Las Vegas to electric vehicles (Teslas) hailed by and paid for with smart phones. I hesitate to criticize someone who’s been so monstrously successful, but I’m unclear on the benefit. Currently, is it hard hailing a taxi? Is it inconvenient paying with cash or a credit card? In a state where incremental electrical load is met by burning more coal, is there an ecological benefit?

Having spent more time than I would have liked in Vegas, I can tell you that the overhaul of intra-city transportation that is most needed is trams that would make 10 – 15 stops on The Strip, downtown, and the airport.

The problem, and I do sympathize here, is the loss of jobs for the 9000 cab drivers.

On the whole, the “greening” of our energy and transportation will bring about a large and attractive net increase in jobs. Dr. Robert Pollin, Professor of Economics and Co-Director of the Political Economy Research Institute, University of Massachusetts-Amherst, and consultant to the Energy Department on implementing the Obama Administration’s stimulus program, spoke with me at length on this subject for “Is Renewable Really Doable?” He explained in detail the economics that underlies the migration to clean energy, and it’s extremely compelling.

Here, however, you have 9000 unskilled people displaced, and that’s a problem at both the economic and the political level. If anyone has a win-win solution that works around this issue, I’d love to hear it.

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