Well, enjoy your air conditioning America because its price is going way up. The new "Freon" is here and it's expensive. Now, most of you don't remember the "hole in the ozone" that led to R12 refrigerant being discontinued, but I do. Now we have R134-A, refrigerant being discontinued because of its contribution to "global climate change."

Now there's only one producer of this "new" refrigerant, DuPont. Seeing as how there is only one producer of this new refrigerant they get to name the price. A 30 pound can of R134-A retails for around $100, which puts the price around $3.34 per pound. The retail price of a 30 pound bottle of HFO-1234yf, the new refrigerant, is around $3,000, which puts it right at $100 per pound.

As time goes on I would expect the price will come down a little, but there's really no reason why is should since there's only one producer. So, as you upgrade your fleet of taxicabs, make sure you buy the correct machine to handle this new refrigerant. Purchase a few bottles of it and remember this is to help the planet which Al (Gore) says has a temperature.

Since the science is settled we really have no complaint, right? You really have to be impressed with the endurance of this particular long con: global cooling, global warming, the hockey stick, melting polar ice caps and now global climate change. These boys have been working this angle for decades and now it's starting to get some traction because the education system has educated our youth to fully understand that the science is settled.

I'll bet we're proud.

A recent article from New York City spread the happy news that a renegade taxicab driver wouldn't be around to "terrorize" the roads for a while. That "while" is three years. The interesting part of the story, for me, was the amount of time it took to jettison this driver into the great beyond.

He's reported to have racked up 18 complaints in nine months. It would only be in a New York City yellow cab that a driver could get away with that sort of behavior which points up some of the flaws in the basic structure of the industry in the wormy apple.

First, there is no company to call a complaint to. Yes, you have the government watching over the industry, but you see how slowly it moves. There are not a whole lot of businesses that would accept the idea that a driver could get 10 complaints in nine months, let alone 18.

I know that Uber wouldn't keep a driver with anywhere near that number of complaints in that short a period. With no company name associated with the driver to tarnish, the driver simply tarnishes the name of all yellow cab drivers in New York City making the Uber star look all the brighter.

The idea of a homogenized yellow cab fleet removes an important layer of consumer protection, the company owner with his financial life on the line. Allowing a single driver to poison the customer pool for the rest of the drivers serves neither the drivers nor the public.

What's next?

Various reports out of Chicago indicate that the city's transportation industry is in disarray. The city is being sued by "taxi interests" over their lack of uniform regulation with a federal judge reportedly saying the city's rules "appear utterly arbitrary."

The city is being urged by Uber's lawyers to lower regulations on taxicabs rather than raise regulations on Uber. An Institute for Justice attorney recommended the taxi industry be deregulated while 33 of the 50 aldermen are reportedly ready to tighten regulations on Uber, with one alderman recommending buying back the medallions.

The Uber effect is in full bloom in Chicago. With enough money to make friends in the political class, Uber has upset the rock solid applecart that was the Chicago medallion system. The city was able to make millions selling little pieces of tin that allowed taxicabs to service the public. Now they are stuck. They not only have lost the income from the medallion sales but they're looking to be on the hook to buy back their now worthless medallions.

There is little doubt in my mind that the city will have to be forced by the court to pay medallion owners if the "taxi interests" win their lawsuit. The dilemma faced by the city of Chicago is also being faced by other medallion cities across the country. Uber has bought their seat at the table and they're not going away.

Cities will now have to figure out what to do about the taxicab industry they have over regulated for decades. If deregulation or at least open entry ends up being the solution, the good citizens of these cities could see a fare decrease in their future. Competition without government price fixing has served the public well in a variety of industries. It is past due for taxicabs.

How'd they do that?

Despite declining medallion values, the mainstay of the company, Medallion Financial, managed to post a $0.25 dividend annualized to $1.00 a share. That would make it their biggest dividend in the last 5 years. In the world of Uber, that's pretty good.

Where there's a will there's an attorney.

Uber and Lyft's quick departure from Austin Texas is reported to have generated at least one lawsuit. Both companies have long claimed their drivers to be independent contractors like the rest of the taxicab industry. Not that they're a taxicab company, they bill themselves as "technology companies" or "transportation network companies."

Regardless, there's the age old employee versus independent contractor argument and they've proposed a settlement on one such case. The suit alleges that the quick departure from Austin is a violation of labor laws requiring 60 day notice of a shutdown. At the crux of the question is the determination of whether Uber and Lyft drivers are employees or independent contractors.

If declared employees Uber and Lyft would be in violation, if declared independent contractors then the drivers wouldn't fall under the labor law at all. The case is being heard in San Francisco which falls under the Ninth Circus Court of Appeals, so anything can happen.

Were I advising Uber I would recommend that no cases get "settled" in the area of independent contractor law. Showing a penchant for big settlements will only attract more law suits. Of course, with the reported $3.5 billion Uber has just gotten as an investment from Saudi Arabia, they can probably afford a few attorneys to fight these cases.

Now that's some serious programming.

According to reports, Jason Dalton, accused shooter in Kalamazoo Michigan, says that "when the Uber symbol turns black it literally has control over you." Dalton claims that he didn't mention this before because he didn't want to come off as a "crazy person." Yeah, well, I think that ship might have already sailed.

The Dalton case brings to mind a case in Austin in which a driver shot two passengers after getting sent packing from one taxicab company and hiring on at another. What level of interaction does Uber have with their drivers? Do they have any idea as to the state of mind of their drivers? Do they care?

Many companies, not just transportation companies, pay no attention to their employee's frame of mind. Of course, Uber bills its drivers as independent contractors, but what degree of care does Uber owe its riders?

Traditional taxicabs have been ruled to owe a higher degree of care to their passengers than normal drivers, so does Uber owe the same? Fortunately for Uber, Dalton did not injure any of their riders, but he did scare the hell out of one of them.

So one has to wonder with an operation the size of Uber, are they prepared for the suit that will inevitably follow a driver/passenger encounter that leaves the passenger injured or dead? If not it might be wise to consider how to prevent or defend such a suit?

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