Pam's Points: Thoughts on the leaf, and Luther

Pam's Points: Thoughts on the leaf, and Luther

November 2nd, 2013 by Pam Sohn in Opinion Times

Tennessee no longer participates in an incentive program that helps sell the plug-in Nissan Leaf, which is manufactured in Smyrna, Tenn.

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

No Volunteer support for Leaf?

The Nissan plant in Smyrna, Tenn., will reap the benefits of eight other states signing an agreement to keep a $2,500 electric car incentive going. Meanwhile, Tennessee has put the brakes on the program that would have helped Tennesseans put more zero-emissions cars like the Nissan Leaf on the road.

Say what? The plant that makes the Leaf is in Tennessee and employs about 6,400 people, but the Volunteer State is steering clear of a program that helps sell the plug-in cars?

That's right. Last Jan. 31, Tennessee's purchase incentive for the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt went away, and this week, Gov. Bill Haslam's administration said Tennessee will not join a renewed e-car incentive program because "market-driven" support is better.

Nissan sold more than 16,000 Leafs through the first nine months of the year -- about 60 cars a day and three times that of the year before. That sounds like demand to me.

But, apparently, there are state conflicts. Conflicts such as oil businesses and gas taxes.

State Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville, says efforts to increase the number of electric and hybrid vehicles are complicated by the state's reliance on gasoline taxes to pay for road maintenance and construction.

"The more you go to these alternative fuel vehicles, the less ability you have to pay for your roads," Norris said.

You also may remember that Gov. Haslam and his family are in the gasoline distributorship business. Hybrid and e-car fill-ups at gas stations are few and far between. But remember, "market-driven" demand is growing.

The family business, Pilot Flying J, is the nation's largest truck-stop operator, and has more than 650 truck stop and travel center convenience store locations, as well as 23,000 employees. Its annual sales total about $29.2 billion. It is majority-owned and controlled by the family, and Gov. Haslam's brother, Jimmy Haslam, is chief executive officer. The company is under federal investigation over allegations of fuel rebate fraud -- not paying trucking companies the discounts they earned by trading at Pilot. Gov. Haslam has not been involved in company operations for more than a decade, but he remains a stockholder.

Tennessee's e-car rebate that expired early this year was opened to 1,000 buyers of the Leaf and Chevy Volt in 2010. By the time it ended, 772 rebates had been issued, totaling $1.8 million -- about $700,000 short of its original goal.

Good morning, Luther

Luther Masingill holds a place in the heart of every Chattanoogan who grew up listening to radio.

The voice of mornings here for almost 73 years, the WDEF radioman known best just as "Luther" holds the world's record for the longest radio run in one time slot in history.

At 91, Luther's work routine this week had a new follower, Sopan Deb, a producer for Al Jazeera America, the American basic cable and satellite news television channel owned by Qatar-based Al Jazerra Media Network. Deb's three-man crew was here filming Luther, his family and friends, his home and a road in Chattanooga named for him.

In late November, Deb's story about Luther will air on the station's "America Tonight" which comes on at 9 every weeknight. My bet is that Deb will have a very difficult film edit ahead of him. After all, how do you tell a story spanning 91 years with the warmth and personality of Luther Masingill -- the voice of lost-dog finding and all other hometown hope and reason -- in just a few short minutes?

The film will be a must-see.