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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, depending on the fuel, the more it pollutes and the greater damage it does to roads. Therefore, drivers of heavier vehicles should contribute more to funds dedicated to repair and maintain the roads and to compensate for the costs to climate and the environment.
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 technology 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 email@example.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 vehicles 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.
3-26-NYTimes "What You Can Do About Climate Change" by Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute
Fuel Rules Start to Bite; Automakers Are Wary
- Log In - The New York Times
"Automakers can build models that are extremely fuel efficient, but they can't control sales."
How GM Beat Tesla to the First True Mass-Market Electric Car
The true significance of the Bolt: An old-school company with immense manufacturing capacity has gotten to the 200-mile, $30K electric vehicle first.
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.
1-5-13NYTimes--From Ford a Plug-In Hybrid that Tracks the Sun
- From Ford, a Plug-In That Tracks the Sun - NYTimes.com
A solar-powered Ford C-Max concept maximizes energy by finding its own place in the sun.
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.
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.
Automobile Fuel Economy and CO2 Emissions in Industrialized Countries: Troubling Trends Through 2005/06
NYT 2-24-11 Robert Frank Tax Proposal--Find Taxes that do Double Duty
- Find the Taxes That Do Double Duty - Economic View - NYTimes.com
The best kind of tax, says Robert H. Frank, is one that raises revenue while discouraging behavior that causes more harm than good.
Policies to Reduce Fuel Consumption, air pollution and Carbon Emissions
- Policies to reduce fuel consumption, air pollution, and carbon emissions from vehicles in G20 nation
The transport sector consumes more than half of global oil production, and releases nearly a quarter of all anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions. Motor vehicles and engines contribute to ambient air pollution responsible for millions of premature d
San Francisco's CityCarShare at Walgreen's in San Francisco
Hummer Players Edition
Ford F-150 Truck
Smart Car Crash Test
Chevy Volt Plug-in Hybrid
GM Segway PUMA
Tesla Roadster Electric
Bentley Design Concept
8-16-11NYTimes EDITORIAL--"The Clear Case for the Gas Tax"
- The Clear Case for the Gas Tax - NYTimes.com
Without the tax, the already stressed highway system would crumble and the economy would suffer further.
ZIPCAR Official Site
- Car Sharing, an alternative to car rental and car ownership Zipcar
Welcome to Zipcar, the world's largest car sharing and car club service. It is an alternative to traditional car rental and car ownership. Share Zipcars in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, London, New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Portland, San Francisco.
Great Britain's Car Tax Regulations--weight and displacement are taxed
- The cost of vehicle tax for cars, motorcycles, light goods vehicles and trade licences : Directgov -
Tax tables to calculate the cost of your vehicle tax (car tax)
March 31,1906, NYTimes "Long Island Autoists Advocate Weight Tax"
Environmentally Friendly Cars--European Parliamentary Technology Assessment (EPTA)
- Environmentally Friendly Cars in Europe
The expert group made 6 recommendations for a new tax system. The system should: 1. Set same registration tax level for cars with similar CO 2 emission 2. Tax diesel and petrol cars equally wrt CO 2 emission 3. Be flexible wrt engine technologies
Obama's Car Fuel Economy Program NYTimes 5-19-09 John Broder and Micheline Maynard
- Obama's Answer--Make California CAFE Nationwide
Mr. Obama gathered the CEOs of 10 auto companies from around the world in the Rose Garden to announce his proposal for a single national fuel-efficiency standard of 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016, a nearly 40 percent increase from today’s level.
February 2010--Better Mileage Now--Improving the Internal Combustion Engine
- Better Fuel Economy Now--Improving the Internal Combustion Engine
Efficiency can be raised several ways--better control over the air-fuel mixture entering the combustion chamber, over the way gasoline is ignited, and over the mechanical systems that harness the energy. These can improve traditional cars and hybrids
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.
Global Warming Update March 2009
Mistakes of the past and Future?
Cornell Economist Robert Frank's Proposal to Tax "Positional Expenditures"
- Robert Frank's Proposal to Tax "Positional Expenditures"
Cornell economist Robert Frank proposes to gradually replace other taxes with a tax on "positional" expenditures, i.e., purchases of goods and services whose only purpose is to enhance the buyer's position relative to others.
8-19-09 NYTimes Ford Studies Techniques to Charge Electric Vehicles
- Ford Studying Electric Vehicle Charging Techniques
Ford said Tuesday that it is testing new technology that allows drivers to communicate with the nation’s electric-power grid and makes charging the batteries of vehicles as cheap and convenient as possible.
10-22-09 NY Times--Car Sharing Cuts Costs
- Car Sharing Cuts Costs and Emissions
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.
Gas is Cheap in the U.S.!
- Gas Is Cheap in the United States!
Everyone should be grateful for the cheap gasoline we are currently enjoying here in the United States! Here is how we compare with other countries: $.25 Venezuela .41 Iran .60 Saudi Arabia 1.74...
Tiny House Movement Growing--Downsizing America
- Tiny House Movement Growing
Down-Sizing America As a result of the bursting of the housing bubble, subprime mortgage crisis, world recession and growing concern about our national and personal debts, America is downsizing its houses, cars and lifestyles.