California lawmakers are currently debating a pioneering program that many hope would slash greenhouse gas emissions, while not costing taxpayers, or even the auto industry, any money.
The idea of these "feebates" isn't really new, but this application would be. Bill AB 493 from Assemblyman Ira Ruskin (D-Redwood City) would call for fees of up to $2,500 on the purchase of a new gas guzzling vehicle, while that money would be routed to rebates on high efficiency models for other buyers. There would be fee exemptions on some SUVs and trucks to accommodate those who really need them, and for small businesses.
Lawmakers point out that total car sales, and dealer revenue, should even out as consumer behavior shifts more in favor of models with higher gas mileage.
The plan has come up for vote before but stalled out, and observers are calling this month's attempt a "last chance." The prospects for passing are unclear, but what is clear is that the plan makes a lot of sense. It is rooted in fiscal responsibility and spurring market forces to help clear the air.
If we are to have a hope in heading off catastrophic global warming, we can use all the fresh thinking and incentives lawmakers and businesses can dream up.
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