Bye, gas-powered cars
Aug 25, 2022
Episode 739

Bye, gas-powered cars

We'll discuss California's electric car revolution.

Picture this: In the not-too-distant future, gasoline cars will be a thing of the past. This week, California moved to ban sales of new gas-powered cars by 2035. We’ll discuss what that means for our clean(er) economic future. Plus, big ups to the person running the White House Twitter account. And, if you paid a fee for being tardy on your taxes, the IRS might be sending you a check.

Here’s everything we talked about today:

Grab a beverage and join us Friday for Economics on Tap. We’ll be on the YouTube livestream starting at 6:30 ET/3:30 PT. We’ll have more news, drinks and a game.

Make Me Smart August 25, 2022 transcript


Note: Marketplace podcasts are meant to be heard, with emphasis, tone and audio elements a transcript can’t capture. Transcripts are generated using a combination of automated software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting it.


Kai Ryssdal: Let’s just bang it out.


Kimberly Adams: Trying to be efficient. Hey there, I’m Kimberly Adams, and welcome back to Make Me Smart where we make today make sense.


Kai Ryssdal: I’m Kai Ryssdal. Thanks for joining us on this Thursday.


Kimberly Adams: We are going to talk about the news and then end on some make me smiles. We are going to get started, however, with the news fix.


Kai Ryssdal: Oh, you’ve got like one, two three?


Kimberly Adams: Well, three of them are the same. Which is, and maybe everybody else already knew this but I’ve been in like retreat world. But that California has voted to go ahead and ban new gas cars sales by 2035, which is a pretty big deal. And –


Kai Ryssdal: It’s an extremely big deal.


Kimberly Adams: Yeah, because not only would this change things in California – this doesn’t affect cars that are already on the road, it’s just the new cars. But there are, I think, 17 states. So California is a little bit different than other states in that it can mandate, like environmental standards and actually do something, even if they’re different or more stringent than the federal government’s. Most states can’t do that. And there are, like 17 states that basically do what California does, usually. And so, this not only matters for California, but it means it is likely that the states that generally are on board with California’s environmental regulations could also be on the path to banning the sale of gasoline fueled cars. And this is a pretty big step when it comes to sort of the clean climate future, or cleaner climate, but cars last a long time. So what we’re meaningfully talking about is, you know, like 2050 when there would likely be very few gas powered cars on the road, right?


Kai Ryssdal: Right. Right. Right. I think yeah, I think that’s good timeframe, right? Because even if – so the last fuel powered car in California sold in 2035, let’s say, it last 15 years and cars are lasting longer. So yeah, 2050 works, which is of course, just about where we are supposed to be at like zero carbon in order to meet emissions promises, which of course, is going to be tricky no matter how many cars we take off the road.


Kimberly Adams: Yeah, I just wonder if, you know –


Kai Ryssdal: Sorry about the helicopter.


Kimberly Adams: No, I’m not gonna blame you for that. But you know, you were just talking the other day about production line shutting down for gas powered vehicles, so they could switch to clean energy. And I wonder if it’s even going to take until 2035? Or our car companies? And is it going to become like a niche thing, like, a luxury item instead of, you know, like people who buy fancy – I don’t know, I’m trying to think of a good comparison. Like, a fancy car that has some sort of thing. Not articulating that well at all. You know what I mean?


Kai Ryssdal: Well, no, but but yeah, I did know what you mean. But just to take that a stretch further. So Dan Neil, who does car reviews for The Wall Street Journal, used to be a regular on Marketplace but then he moved to North Carolina. Pulitzer Prize winner, by the way, for criticism. Dan had a great thing like six weeks, two months ago reviewing a BMW electric something that he drove over in Germany, and he said it was amazing. He said it was incredible. The handling and the efficiency and the styling and the this and that. And then he closed the column with a really good question, which is, look, if they can do this with electrics, why are they even making fuel powered cars anymore? It was, it was a really interesting thought, you know?


Kimberly Adams: Well, and with all these EV chargers that are supposed to be built, given the money for it in the infrastructure law, and I imagine there’s going to be an additional boost, given the climate bill that just went through, the inflation Reduction Act. You know, the range anxiety situation is going to be much easier, and it is gonna really start to get to be to the point of, why would you get a gas car? Because they’re going to be more expensive to operate, they’re going to be more expensive to maintain. Because it just, gas has a lot, the gas powered engines have a lot of moving parts. A lot more, moving parts. I think I’m not an expert on that. Anyway.


Kai Ryssdal: No, they do? They sure do. You bet? Yeah.


Kimberly Adams: Could it be that the market actually ends up pushing gas powered vehicles off out of things?


Kai Ryssdal: Don’t mess with the market.


Kimberly Adams: Yeah. Okay. So the other story I have is something that one of our listeners tagged for me on Twitter, which is a thread by a guy named Dan Runcie who writes a newsletter called Trapital, sharing insights on music, media and culture. But it is this long Twitter thread, talking about how Cash App basically was not really used very much and was way losing to Venmo early on, and then started partnering with rap artists and then exploded in popularity. And it’s this really interesting breakdown of the business model, and how they leveraged sort of black hip hop culture to grow the business in a way that was just much more exponential than how Venmo did. And so he made a chart that is quite adorable, I should say, that highlights the difference in the way that Venmo got customers versus Cash App got customers. So Venmo got a couple of like, Ivy League, you know, sort of exclusive people first, who then told their friends who told their friends who told their friends, and that’s how Venmo built up its model. Whereas Cash App, basically got one or two hip hop artists, all of their fans, and then the Friends of the fans, which, it’s just very fascinating.


Kai Ryssdal: Yeah, oh, no, totally, totally. Cash apps and all that jazz. Very fascinating.


Kimberly Adams: Yeah. Okay, what’s yours?


Kai Ryssdal: Okay, so I’ve got two, one of which is substantive, and one of which is a teensy bit not, but worth noting anyway. So I read in Bloomberg today. And if you had any doubt about the, how to put this, about the rise of China, economically and geopolitically, this one’s going to put it to rest. For damn near 80 years, or 75 years since the end of the Second World War, Japan has been, shall we say, restrained in its military activity and its military spending, right. They didn’t even have an army and a navy, they had a Japanese self defense force, right, that was constitutionally prescribed. They limited defense spending to something like 1% of gross domestic product, and Japan is like the third largest economy in the world. So that’s a whole ton of money. But standby, because it’s getting bigger. Japan is set to increase its military spending, to boost it from ninth in the world, to third in the world behind the United States and China. Basically, there is no limit now on what the diet will approve for military spending. And that is all about the rise of China, and Taiwan, and threats and all of that. And I just think it’s a marker of change in the Asia Pacific region. And I think we all should not sleep on that, because that’s a big deal. That’s a big deal when China starts to spend like that. So that’s, that’s the substantive and somewhat gloomy one. Yeah, go ahead. Sorry.


Kimberly Adams: I’ve just been so fascinated that, you know, there was a lot of hand wringing in the military industrial complex, after the withdrawal from Afghanistan, because the US government had been spending so much money there for so long. And it took us not a year and a half to have plenty of other wars and places for that spending to be made up. Anyway.


Kai Ryssdal: Totally fair. Totally fair. All right. So here’s my other one. So reasonable people can disagree about the student loan repayment – uh not moratorium, he actually cancelled a bunch of debt yesterday, the President did. Well y’all know the numbers, it’s been in there. So here’s, here’s what I just love about this. There are a – more than a handful, probably upwards of a dozen, maybe two dozen Republican members of Congress who are going around saying things like, Marjorie Taylor Greene said on Newsmax yesterday: For our government to just say, okay, your debt is completely forgiven, it’s completely unfair. And then the White House and I don’t know if there’s like an intern in the White House doing their social media feed right now or? But the White House pointed out that Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene through her business had $183,504 in paycheck protection loans completely forgiven. Congress people notoriously take credit for bills they voted against, they do everything they can to boost their own profiles. This is not extraordinary by any means that a congressperson would do this, but there is a certain hmmm to the White House itself slepping back on Republican Congress people doing this.


Kimberly Adams: Yeah, it’s a whole thread of them. And I have to say I –


Kai Ryssdal: There’s a zillion of them.


Kimberly Adams: I do love a good dose of petty, and this is very petty, I loved it. I was very entertained by it.


Kai Ryssdal: It’s great. And honestly, to the intern running the White House social media account, you go, you just go.


Kimberly Adams: I imagined that was probably a seasoned professional.


Kai Ryssdal: Maybe I’m giving the intern too much credit. But anyway, anyway, there you go. That’s the White House communication strategy on PPP loans and student debts. That’s what we got. Charlton, let us go.


Kimberly Adams: Are you sure that wasn’t actually your make me smile?


Kai Ryssdal: Well, you know, as I was… and put that in there, I was like, oh, man, that really could have been a make me smile. I’m literally smiling right now. But instead, I’m going with this one. And it’s not really a make me smile. It’s a history matters, and what’s happening stinks. Commentary. So, in 1957 to 1962, the East front of the United States Capitol, which is to say the part that faces away from the mall was renovated and expanded and actually stretched out, so that Congress could have more room. When that renovation was done, there was a whole bunch of marble and stone that the Architect of the Capitol didn’t know what to do with. And it stored for a while in a warehouse about a mile and a half from the Capitol. And then like in the late 70s or early 80s, took all that stone, and we’re talking tons and tons of it, it’s a huge pile, and plopped it – that’s the only word that can be used to describe it, plopped it in the middle of Rock Creek Park, which is a lovely, forested, hilly, nice park that runs up through Washington, DC. And they plopped it there on the side, not on a mark trail, they just chucked it there. And it’s become something of an attraction, right? It’s got a Yelp review. And it’s just cool. And it’s history that’s right there. You can’t actually go and touch the stones anymore, because they fenced it off. But anyway, it’s a cool thing. And if history is your thing, you’re like, wow, that’s really cool. These are stones from the United States Capitol. Well, reports The Washington Post today, those stones are now going to be moved out of there and put in a either National Park Service or Architect of the Capitol warehouse, where they will be away from public view. And I would just like to say that stinks. That’s it. That stinks. That’s my rant.


Kimberly Adams: This kind of blew up in like DC Twitter a little bit before I left. People are less than pleased. Yeah. How ironic. I have a California story today and you have a DC story, even though I’m in California but you’re not in DC? I guess my make me smile is also a DC story, which is that if you filed your taxes late during the pandemic and had to pay a penalty for it, you may be getting a refund from the IRS, because the IRS has announced that and I’m reading from the CNBC story here: nearly 1.6 million filers will automatically receive a collective 1.2 billion plus in penalty refunds or credits, and many of those payments are gonna go through by the end of September. So if you got stuck with it, and ended up having to pay a penalty or fee, you’re probably gonna get that back. Now, what entertained me the most about this, was in the IRS press release. This reminds me of that piece that Catherine Rampell did, about like, in the IRS where they have documents and documents and documents everywhere and they’re so backlogged and they don’t have enough staff to process all the returns and everything. So here’s what the IRS press release says. “Besides providing relief to both individuals and businesses impacted by the pandemic, this step is designed to allow the IRS to focus its resources on processing backlog, tax returns, and taxpayer correspondence to help them return to normal operations for the 2023 filing season.” They’re giving it all these people $1.6 billion in refunds so they can get caught up on their work.


Kai Ryssdal: And if you haven’t seen it yet, we’ll put it on the show page. If you haven’t seen it yet, go read that Catherine Rampell column on the Internal Revenue Service. It’s crazy. And in many ways, unforgivable. Thank you, Congress.


Kimberly Adams: Well, they’re getting some money now.


Kai Ryssdal: Yeah, they are.


Kimberly Adams: Good luck finding anybody to hire though.


Kai Ryssdal: Yeah, fair enough. All right. So we are done on those notes. Back tomorrow for economics on tap. Grab a beverage of your choice. Head over to the YouTube livestream. We will start at 6:30 Eastern time, 3:30 Pacific out here for both of us this week. We’ll have some news, we’ll do some drinks, play a round of half full half empty, and send you on your merry way.


Kimberly Adams: Yes, and please keep sending us your merry thoughts or questions. Our email is Or you can leave us a message at 508-U-B-SMART.


Kai Ryssdal: Make Me Smart, which is the podcast you’re listening to, is produced by Marissa Cabrera. Olivia Zhao is our intern.


Kimberly Adams: Today’s episode was engineered by Charlton Thorp. Bridget Bodnar is a senior producer. And Donna Tam is the Director of On Demand. Charlton was so convinced that you were still here.


Kai Ryssdal: I know, I’m sorry.

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