U.S Government Policies to Improve Motor Vehicle Fuel Economy and Reduce CO2 Emissions

Reducing CO2 Emissions from Motor Vehicles

Increase Gasoline Taxes Significantly

Economists say that increasing gasoline taxes would be the most effective way to reduce fuel consumption by motor vehicles which are the second largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. (Coal-fired electric power plants are the only larger source.)

Motor vehicle fuel economy is significantly better in Europe where gasoline taxes are higher and pump prices are more than double in the U.S. Gasoline taxes in the United States could be gradually increased to European levels over five or ten years. This would give car buyers and producers time to adjust to the higher prices. Economists also recognize that fuel taxes are regressive, bearing most heavily on lower income citizens. Moreover, higher gasoline taxes appear to be a non-starter, politically. Congress shows no enthusiasm for raising the gasoline tax, and President Obama has ruled that approach out as well.

Levy a Weight Tax on Motor Vehicles

Another and perhaps a better approach would be to apply the laws of elementary physics by imposing a motor vehicle weight tax. This tax could be tapered in over a 5 to 10 year period with the effect of equalizing the fuel cost per mile in the U.S. with that of Europe. It appears to me that a gross weight tax would be more politically possible than an increase in the gasoline tax. And it would leave car makers free to produce whatever vehicles they wished--small, medium, large, gasoline, diesel, hybrid, CNG, etc., and it would leave car buyers free to buy whatever car or truck or SUV best fitted their preference and purse. However, the overall result would mean that more small, fuel efficient vehicles would be produced, and CO2 emissions would decline. The government would not be involved in the design or engineering of cars. Heavier cars would not be prohibited, but they would be taxed sufficiently to compensate for their "negative external costs" of pollution and contribution to our country's dependence on foreign oil. [It should be noted that if a weight tax were adopted the regulation should include a weight credit for hybrid or battery powered vehicles which are fuel efficient although the batteries are quite heavy.]

Hawaii is one of 13 states that base a car owner's automobile tax on weight alone. Thirty states have a flat rate; three states consider weight and age; two consider age only; and one state each considers horsepower, value only, and value and age, according to a 2009 report by the Office of Revenue Analysis in Washington, D.C.

The weight tax is based on the rationale that the heavier the vehicle , the more damage it does to roads. Therefore, drivers of heavier vehicles should contribute more to funds dedicated to repair and maintain the roads.

The vehicle weight tax represents a small sliver – about $34 million – of Hawaii's $5.4 billion in total tax revenue, and is earmarked for a special fund solely dedicated to highway maintenance and construction


Increase CAFE Standards and Eliminate Current Loopholes

The CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) regulations resulted in improved fuel economy for a period in the 1970s until the truck/SUV loophole resulted in the production and sale of many more heavy, high horse-power vehicles for private use, culminating in the Hummer and similar gas hogs. This brought a halt to improvement in fuel economy of non-commercial vehicles in the U.S. Closing the truck loophole and imposing higher CAFE standards would be one way to improve fuel economy. But it may not be the best way.

Levy a Tax on Engine Displacement and or Horsepower

Regulating or taxing engine displacement would be another possibility for achieving better fuel economy and reduced CO2 emissions. This would mean that SUVs and trucks would be more fuel efficient but would not accelerate like sports cars. Higher displacement cars would not have to be made illegal, but they would be required to pay for the cost of higher greenhouse gas emissions and lower fuel economy which perpetuates our country's dependence on foreign oil.

Increase the Use of Diesel Engines, Especially in SUVs and Trucks

In an op-ed in the January 11, 2010, Detroit News, Steven Dawson pointed out that increased use of diesel engines could provide a significant increase in fuel economy in U.S. vehicles as it has been doing in Europe. He pointed out that last month at the Los Angeles auto show the Audi A3TDI was named "Green Car of the Year," and that the Detroit News selected the same diesel powered car as its "Car of the Year."

According to Dawson, "Compared with a conventional fuel-injected engine, a modern diesel provides 30 to 40 percent improved fuel economy. The savings go up to 60 percent during towing or driving at higher speeds. In addition diesels emit 10 to 20 percent fewer greenhouse gases...."

Dawson goes on to point out that the U.S. car mix is roughly 1/3 small, 1/3 midsize and 1/3 large including pickups and SUVs. If we assume that, on average, small cars get 40mpg, mid-size get 30 mpg and large vehicles get 20 mpg, math tells us that large vehicles consume about 47 percent of the fuel, compared with 30 percent for mid-size and 23 percent for small cars....

"Even when you consider the added cost required for filters and exhaust treatment technoloby to remove particulates and nitrogen oxide pollutants, the diesel is a more cost-effective package--and offers more residual value--than gas-electric hybrids and other technologies over the life of the vehicle...."

"Given its advantages, the diesel can be--should be --the vehicle of choice of increasingly more Americans."

[Steven Dawson is president and chief executive of AinterCast, a Swedish company that has developed technologies for producing high-strength iron. E-mail comments to letters@detroitnews.com. A link to the entire op-ed is provided below.]

Perspective on the Small Car Safety Issue

Some commentators question the safety of smaller cars which are subject to greater damage in collisions than are heavier SUVs, large trucks and sedans. To this others point out that is the large vehicles that pose the danger of injury to occupants of small cars. That is a matter of one's viewpoint. [The issue is analogous to gun safety--who should be blamed for the danger of gun violence--the shooter or the shootee? To solve this disparity some advocate arming everyone for their self-protection. Others support disarmament.] The passenger safety issue is not the weight of the vehicles but rather the weight differential between the vehilcles in collisions. This means that the hazard to the occupants of small cars will be reduced as the numbers of heavy vehicles diminishes, reducing the size disparity in non-commercial vehicles. Moreover, it is possible to design small cars that provide quite good crash protection for occupants.


Chevy Spark
Chevy Spark
Recharge your electric car's battery in Walgreen's parking lot in San Francisco.
Recharge your electric car's battery in Walgreen's parking lot in San Francisco. | Source
Source
Recharge your electric car battery in Walgreen's parking lot in San Francisco.
Recharge your electric car battery in Walgreen's parking lot in San Francisco. | Source

San Francisco's CityCarShare at Walgreen's in San Francisco

CityCarShare, Walgreen's Parking Lot,San Francisco, January 2012.
CityCarShare, Walgreen's Parking Lot,San Francisco, January 2012. | Source
CityCarShare, Walgreen's Parking Lot, San Francisco, January 2012.
CityCarShare, Walgreen's Parking Lot, San Francisco, January 2012. | Source

Bentley

Bentley
Bentley

Chevrolet Aveo

Chevrolet Aveo
Chevrolet Aveo

Hummer Players Edition

Hummer Players Edition
Hummer Players Edition

Toyota Yaris

Toyota Yaris
Toyota Yaris

Ford F-150 Truck

Ford F-150 Truck
Ford F-150 Truck

Smart Car

Smart Car
Smart Car

Smart Car Crash Test

Toyota Prius

Toyota Prius
Toyota Prius

Chevy Volt Plug-in Hybrid

Chevrolet Volt Plug-in Hybrid
Chevrolet Volt Plug-in Hybrid

GM Segway

GM Segway
GM Segway

GM Segway PUMA

Tesla Roadster Electric

Bentley Design Concept

Bentley Design Concept
Bentley Design Concept
These little vehicles are becomming more common in San Francisco.
These little vehicles are becoming more common in San Francisco.

Zip Cars

A fuel economy deal worthy of every new car buyers' support

May 20, 2009 Detroit Free Press

There is always an inclination to raise an eyebrow and guard your wallet when government announces that something is "good for everybody."

But the sweeping deal announced Tuesday on auto emission and mileage standards does indeed appear to be good for just about everybody -- assuming the vehicles it spawns are appealing to consumers.

In brief, the plan would eliminate state-level regulation of motor vehicles and mandate that, by 2016, exhaust emissions be cut by about a third and mileage increased to 39 m.p.g. for cars and 30 m.p.g. for light trucks. The requirements will add an estimated $1,300 to the cost of vehicles, but the government says that will be offset by savings in gasoline.

Indicating the industry's support, no fewer than 10 auto manufacturers plus the UAW were represented at the White House as President Barack Obama announced the deal. The advantages for the industry are twofold: uniformity and certainty. There will be no regulations peculiar to a state or region, and the industry now has a fixed set of relatively long-term goals with enough lead time to meet them.

The upside for the nation is cleaner air, which could lead to lower health care costs, and less dependence on oil. At a time when this country is using 20 million barrels of oil a day, Obama said that the plan will yield a savings of 1.8 billion barrels by 2016, or about what America imported last year from Saudi Arabia, Libya, Venezuela and Nigeria combined.

And there is also an intangible value in having this annual political donnybrook settled in a comprehensive way.

The downside? Detroit automakers have yet to build a high-mileage vehicle that Americans embrace in huge numbers. And with these standards looming, wary U.S. consumers may be inclined to hang on to the ride they've got rather than buy something that may be smaller, less powerful and more expensive. With federal hooks now deep into the domestic industry, Obama may have to become car salesman-in-chief to get U.S. consumers to share his vision.

Mistakes of the past and Future?

7-car family driveway in upscale Detroit suburb.
7-car family driveway in upscale Detroit suburb.

Auto Makers Won't Cut Corners on Obama Fuel Standards Detroit Free Press 5-19-09

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Comments 34 comments

Vladimir Uhri profile image

Vladimir Uhri 7 years ago from HubPages, FB

 

I believe that those who are worry about pollution should move to China and buy bicycles.


eovery profile image

eovery 7 years ago from MIddle of the Boondocks of Iowa

Interesting hub

I think raising any taxes is stupid.  I want to drive a car that is safe.  You will never see me in a "Smart Car".  That is an oxymoron (however your spell it)...It is a death trap and should not be allowed on roads with speed limits posted higher than 25 mph.


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 7 years ago Author

You've made your position on taxes very clear several time. But you haven't gotten around to telling us which government services you would suspend.

Looking small cars at from another point of view the heavy cars and trucks are the ones that are dangerous, not the small cars.


barranca profile image

barranca 7 years ago

amen!


ColdWarBaby 7 years ago

Your quite correct about the safety factor Ralph. It's actually the only way to look at it.

Is a formula 1 racer a huge, heavy tank of a vehicle?

They travel at speeds well over 200mph and there is nothing safer, as counter-intuitive as that may seem.

Your idea for the weight tax is a good one. It would not be regressive at all.

Unfortunately it's too little, too late.

The internal combustion engine needs to be eliminated ASAP wherever it's conceivable to do so.


eovery profile image

eovery 7 years ago from MIddle of the Boondocks of Iowa

Sorry to differ, Car versus animal, post or anything on highway, which car will improve your survival rate, big or small? This is not necessary heavier or lighter, that's different subject. Also, I like this hub on the study of small car safety. Seems like the highway safety commission thinks different. http://hubpages.com/autos/No-Brainer-Small-Cars-Ar... The list is too long on government services I would do away with. Top one government money spent on abortions. And the trillions of dollars on bailout. We gave GM how many billions, and they appear to be on the way to bankruptcy anyway. But you do bring up a point. I think I should actually make a list of the programs I do away with and see if I could put a dollar amount to it. That would be a fun exercise. I would probably start looking at the programs for 1930 forward. I would agree with the statement that I heard Lee Iococca made, but I can't seem to remember where I saw it, but it stated something to the sort of that we do not need any new laws, congress has done such a bad job on laws in the past 20 years, that they all need to be redone or done away with. Keep on Hubbing.


ColdWarBaby 7 years ago

Differ all you like. It's your prerogative.

The FIRST place the government needs to cut is NOT "services", whatever that means, but Military. At least by 50%. I'd make it 75 actually. We spend more than the next 48 nations combined on ways to massacre civilian populations.


eovery profile image

eovery 7 years ago from MIddle of the Boondocks of Iowa

I agree with you some, but in a different way.

I say we get out of everywhere and let the other countries worry about it. Take care of us. And only when they come begging to us for help, then we may think about helping. Instead we are sending money and people everywhere. And everyone is calling us bad names. Get out and let them worry about it, themselves.

Keep on hubbing.


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 7 years ago Author

Thanks for your comments. Well, climate change will affect all countries and all countries need to cooperate to do something to prevent it before it's too late. I agree that we should stop trying to solve diplomatic and other problems with military intervention. I read somewhere that we have American soldiers stationed in 80 countries. Not only is it expensive, but in most cases they aren't making friends for the United States.


earnestshub profile image

earnestshub 7 years ago from Melbourne Australia

We need to reduce horsepower and weight.


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 7 years ago Author

Agreed. Tnx for your comment.


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 7 years ago Author

A weight tax on non-commercial motor vehicles would offer several advantages:

1. It would be simpler, easier to understand and administer than CAFE regulations.

2. Tapering the weight tax in over 5 years or so would give buyers and vehicle makers time to adjust.

3. The tax would encourage the use of smaller, lighter more fuel efficient cars and trucks.

4. The tax would accomplish the purpose of reducing dependence on foreign oil without involving the government in the vehicle design or regulation of the type of vehicles permitted to be made and sold.

5. Drivers would remain free to drive heavy gas-guzzling vehicles but, by virtue of the weight tax, would be required to pay the cost of the "externalitites," i.e. pollution and CO 2 emissions and contribution to our dependence on foreign oil.

6. A weight tax would not be regressive or at least not as regressive as a high gasoline tax, and it would be more feasible politically than increasing the gasoline tax which has close to zero chance of being adopted by the Congress. In recognition of the politics of the gas tax, Obama has ruled out this approach.

 


George Nagle 7 years ago

Taxing cars proportional to their weight makes sense in the aggregate. In general, it takes more energy, that is, gasoline to move a heavier car a given distance than a lighter car. In particular instances a lighter "souped up" car may demand more gasoline than a heavier one. The inequity here could be addressed by having a tax on larger displacements. The complication a displacement tax produces may be not worth a relatively small payoff.


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 7 years ago Author

Thanks, George. Good to get some support from a former scientist! I think an incentive for Americans to buy more fuel efficient cars in case oil prices don't increase sufficiently to provide it.


Keith S profile image

Keith S 7 years ago

Whether one is for or against Cap and Trade, Carbon Folly is worth reading. For more info http://hubpages.com/politics/What-is-Carbon-Folly


Keith S profile image

Keith S 7 years ago

Hi Ralph,

Good article. I agree from an economist's point of view that high gas taxes can reduce gasoline consumption. My major concern with higher gasoline taxes is that they unjustly penalize the people who earn lower incomes.

These people are the ones who drive older vehicles that have bad fuel economy and the ones least able to afford to buy a new fuel efficient vehicle, no matter how cheap it may be.

My second problem with high gas taxes is that unless the additional taxes go to support rapid transit or public transportation, the tax money will either be squandered in general funds or used to improve roads which sort of defeats the purpose of higher gasoline taxes.

By the way you might want to read the book Carbon Folly. It is a must read for anyone concerned about energy and global warming.

Keith


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 7 years ago Author

I agree with you on the disadvantages of high gas taxes. I don't think it's even under consideration in Congress. It's a political non-starter. A weight tax on non-commercial motor vehicles would encourage people to buy smaller more fuel efficient cars without penalizing low income people. It would be designed to penalize people who buy Hummers, Cadillac Escalades, Suburbans and other heavy, high horsepower vehicles. When I was growing up in a family of 5 we had a 4-door Ford sedan with around 100 h.p. which I recall was plenty big enough for us. Now we have SUVs with huge engines that make them accelerate like hot rods.

I agree with your point about the need for better public transportation. This would reduce transportation related emissions and improve the mobility of people who don't have cars. Thanks for your comment. (I would be interested in your reaction to Professor Robert Frank's proposal to tax what he calls "positional" expenditures. His article is the last one linked at the bottom of the Hub.)


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 7 years ago Author

CAR SHARING IS GROWING

THE economy may be slowly improving and gas prices have fallen well below their $4 peak, but a growing number of consumers and companies are trying to save money by using car-sharing services that rent vehicles by the hour.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/22/automobiles/auto...


KeithTax profile image

KeithTax 6 years ago from Wisconsin

More people need to read articles like this. If we are ever able to wean ourselves from carbon, we need to start becoming proactive. Keep the info coming.


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 6 years ago Author

Thanks, Keith. I've sent this Hub to my Congressman, and posted it on numerous forums but I've received few comments.


usedmotor 6 years ago

Hi I see your hub this is nice. You want a best used motors please visit our site.


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 6 years ago Author

Thanks for your comment.


atifhameed profile image

atifhameed 6 years ago from Islamabad, Pakistan

For this purpose we should use BICYCLES. The most economical way!


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 6 years ago Author

Thanks for your comment. I agree that we need to use more bicycles. To encourage that we need to increase the number of bicycle only lanes to improve safety be separating bicyclers from motor vehicles. Some communities have done quite a lot to encourage greater use of bicycles. This also has a health benefit, of course.


atifhameed profile image

atifhameed 6 years ago from Islamabad, Pakistan

Yes this also has health benefits...


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 4 years ago Author

CAFE midterm review sought freep.com

There is widespread auto industry support for a single fuel economy regulation, but at a public hearing Tuesday in Detroit there were repeated calls for a midterm review to assess the cost and effectiveness of the new standards.


ib radmasters profile image

ib radmasters 4 years ago from Southern California

Why does HP keep three year old hubs in today's references.


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 4 years ago Author

Ask HubPages. However, it seems to me that this topic is still quite relevant. Also, newer information has been added subsequent to the original publication of the article.

Apparently you aren't concerned about the importance of improving motor vehicle fuel economy??? If you are, what's your solution?


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 3 years ago Author

8-17-13NYTimes "Chevy's Cheap Minicar is a Surprise Hit"

Chevrolet’s Cheap Minicar, the Spark, Is a Surprisingly Strong Seller - NYTimes.com

The four-door Spark, made in South Korea and sold in the United States since last year, starts at $12,170 and gets about 35 miles to the gallon.


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 3 years ago Author

9-11-13NYTimes "Vehicle Fuel Economy Reaches a New High"

Vehicle Fuel Efficiency Reaches a High, Nearing Goal for 2016 - NYTimes.com

The average fuel economy of new vehicles sold in the United States was 24.9 miles per gallon in August, the highest since 2007, according to a University of Michigan study.


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 2 years ago Author

1-5-13NYTimes "Electric Service From $199 a Month"

Electric Service From $199 a Month - NYTimes.com

Electric cars are getting cheaper, with the Chevrolet Spark E.V., Smart Electric Drive Cabriolet and Fiat 500e all available for lease at less than $240 a month.


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 2 years ago Author

5-15-14DetroitFreePress "Should drivers face taxes based on how far they go?" by Paul Egan

Should Michigan drivers pay fees based on miles driven? Report sparks debate.

Michigan could solve its road funding problems by being one of the first states in the nation to move to a system where motorists pay a fee based on the number of miles they drive, according to a University of Michigan report to be released today.


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 2 years ago Author

Motor Vehicle Weight Tax Adopted by Hawaii in 2011

Vehicle Weight Tax - Honolulu Civil Beat

The vehicle weight tax is an annual tax that all Hawaii car owners pay to the state and county, in addition to a state registration fee and fuel tax. Gov. Neil...


Lady Guinevere profile image

Lady Guinevere 22 months ago from West Virginia

Thank you for sharing this hub with me. I love the smartcar, but we do not live in the city. Making higher taxs on mileage is unfair to those of us who do not live in the cities. We bought a KIA Soul last year and love it. We would have bought a hybrid but they were out of our price range at the time. I asked around my friends before we bought this car about hybrid and electric cars and most told me that the cost of the barrty alone was exhorbatent. When prices come down and the energy saver vehicles come down then this america will flock to them.

Thre are subways in most of the bigger cities. Do they also use fuels and have dangerous emmissions too?

Airplanes do use lots of fuel too and so do other forms of transportation. What are your thouhts on their fuel use and emmission?

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