What is the Best Way to Clean up Our Auto Fleet?
Congressman Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) introduced a bill earlier this week that would encourage sales of plug-in hybrid passenger cars by providing a $3,000 to $6,150 tax credit for people who buy them. Is this the best, most cost-effective way to clean our air and reduce our dependence on imported oil?
Maybe a look at the bigger picture is in order. I propose that instead of tax credits on new cars, that the government provide similarly-sized tax credits to allow owners (who are in lower income levels) of older cars that fail emission tests to purchase a used car that pollutes a fraction as much as an older pre-1990 car. A $5,000 to $6,000 car is in most cases a heck of a lot nicer than a $1,000 one.I’d rather see the $5,000 incentives go to these less fortunate people who are buying a better used car than to someone who has money and just wants to get the latest environmentally friendly vehicle. In absolute terms, I really think something like that would clean up the environment and reduce oil consumption better than making already-clean vehicles cleaner. In addition, it could potentially help the market for used cars (more demand, hopefully better resale values) AND cut new car manufacturers some slack in their R&D expenditures.I don’t know – it’s just an idea – but I’ve always been bugged that the cars that are already not the problem are being focused on. Sort of like the argument in favor of large hybrids (city buses, UPS trucks, GM’s large SUV hybrids) rather than small hybrids (Prius, Civic). Sure, the Prius might get great fuel economy, but even if you took away all the exotic hybrid components and put a regular 1.8 liter engine in that thing, it would probably still get 35 mpg (as the Corolla already pretty much does). You’ll save many more barrels of oil reducing consumption of the biggest vehicles by 20% rather than reducing consumption of the smallest vehicles by 20%. Plus, you’d clean the air more effectively by removing the worst polluters rather than making the least-polluting vehicles even cleaner.