Photo by Lola Ackinmade
While the US is embroiled in an ongoing debate about how best to regulate auto emissions, Sweden went ahead and announced a plan today that will fiercely cut emissions, encourage people to buy hybrids, and generate tax revenue in the process. At the center of the plan? A huge tax increase on polluting vehicles, and a promise of a 5-year tax exemption for anyone who buys a green car.A tax like Sweden's—which hikes fees on the worst polluting autos by an impressive 33%--would be woefully unpopular here in the US; especially during this painful recession. The current political climate in the US is in no way ready or willing to rally for a massive hike like that. Still, there are plenty of useful things to be learned from Sweden's example.
Along with the tax hike (which also includes a .4 Kroner, or $0.17 USD, raise per liter on diesel), purchasing a "green" car earns you exclusion from auto taxes altogether for five years. That's a pretty solid incentive to scrap the jalopy and spring for a Prius. But what qualifies as "green" in Sweden's plan? According to Bloomberg:
Environmentally friendly or "green" cars are defined in Sweden as those using renewable fuels and electricity, or gasoline- and diesel-powered vehicles that emit less than 120 grams of CO2 for a kilometer driven.
For a frame of reference, the Honda Civic Hybrid puts out 109 grams CO2/kilometer—just about every non-SUV hybrid should make the cut.
And Sweden's Carbon-Free Car Goal?
It's to meet Sweden's nationwide goal of slashing emissions by 40% and to phase out all fossil fuel burning cars by 2030. Ambitious? Yes. Possible? Yes. The combination of tax penalties for driving polluting cars along with incentives to replace them could stimulate genuine change in Sweden's driving habits. And the public has already been primed—a couple years ago, Sweden already introduced a "cash bonus" for buying green cars. The new tax hike and hybrid exemption is a step forward on a gradual path towards phasing out fossil fuel burning cars altogether—and if they keep up the pace they've set, they could very well hit that goal.