APPLE VALLEY, Minn. (AP) — State Rep. Pat Garofalo sings the praises of the nation’s fracking revolution while he wipes down his electric car.
Let that sink in for a bit.
Nearly every day for the next five months, Garofalo will drive his jet black Tesla Model S from his home in Farmington to the Capitol. After parking his electric car — in a lot full of Democrats’ less-stylish hybrids — he’ll rail against energy subsidies for solar power and call for more pipelines to carry crude from North Dakota’s oilfields across Minnesota.
Now chairman of a committee handling energy issues after Republicans won back the state House in the fall, Garofalo is also working out how to make electric cars easier and more attractive to buy. He’s mum on details, but hinted at tapping into money tied into the state’s solar energy subsidies.
He insists oil drilling, clean energy and electric cars aren’t, and shouldn’t be, mutually exclusive. But he does recognize the oddity of a Republican driving a sleek electric sports car and not, say, a pickup truck.
“I’m more of a nerd than an ideologue,” Garofalo, a network engineer by trade, said with a shrug over lunch last week.
The luxury electric carmaker Tesla is a poster-child for green energy, technology and, most recently, government subsidies. Nevada forked over a $1.3 billion tax incentive package last year to bring the company’s new battery production facility to the state.
After more than 18 months of scoping out Tesla cars, Garofalo got his in November. He wouldn’t say how much he paid, but his sedan model starts at $70,000 new.
“Is it extravagant? Yeah. Is it a mid-life crisis? Absolutely,” he said.
Two months later, his enthusiasm for his new ride falls somewhere between a scientist’s curiosity and a child who just unwrapped a new toy. He lovingly describes every feature, from the high-tech braking system that actually stores energy to the GPS navigation system to how the glove compartment opens. And he still grins as he guns it to 60 mph with ease.
He’s the first to admit — and others will attest — that he just can’t shut up about it.
The fancy car has inspired good-natured ribbing at the Capitol, where he’s offered rides like they were amendments to fellow lawmakers, Republican or Democrat. Fellow Republican Rep. Joe Hoppe turned one down, but saw Garofalo hauling around a carful of legislators and couldn’t resist rolling down his window.
“‘Do you need a push? Do you need to go get a re-charge?'” Hoppe said he joked.
It’s no joke to Garofalo. He said the key to getting more electric cars on the road is education, and he’s eager to answer the many questions he says he’s gotten on his new ride’s performance and reliability.
That he’s had no problems doesn’t mean he doesn’t worry about it. He spent more than a half-hour wiping down the car in his father’s Apple Valley garage after a car wash last week, taking care to find every bead of water and ice, every lingering streak of dirt.
“I had a nightmare last night this thing was rusting already. Seriously,” he said. “I’m not uptight about this car or anything.”
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