Image courtesy of graeme_newcomb via flickr
A new bill under consideration by California's State Legislature would require citizens to pony up for the right to drive one of innumerable gas-guzzling vehicles helping to clog up the state's airways. As reported on by the Los Angeles Times' Margot Roosevelt, the California Clean Car Discount Act (AB 493) - which could become the nation's first "feebate" law if enacted - would impose fees or grant rebates based on a vehicle's emissions production:
"One-time registration fees of up to $2,500 would be levied on new gas guzzlers, such as Hummers, Dodge Vipers and Chevy Tahoes. Some cleaner sport utility vehicles, pickups and minivans would be exempt from any charge, while the Toyota Prius, Honda Civic, Nissan Sentra and other fuel-efficient cars would get hefty rebates."California's Air Resources Board would begin ranking passenger vehicles starting in 2011 according to the amount of GHG emissions they produce; according to early estimates, 25% would be unaffected by the bill, while 35% would be charged a fee and 40% would receive rebates (paid for by the fees). AB 493 would exempt low-income drivers and businesses with less than 25 workers from the fees.
The Union of Concerned Scientists believes emissions could fall by up to 57m metric tons a year by 2030 - equivalent to taking 9m cars and trucks off the roads - if the measure is passed. Although a previous version of the bill was defeated in the Assembly last June, thanks in large part to heavy lobbying from carmakers and dealers, its boosters are more optimistic about its chances this time around. Ironically, the Bush administration's decision to strike down the state's emissions rule may provide the necessary impetus to get this new bill passed.