California Clean Car Discount Act

Sunday, January 27 2008 @ 11:23 PM PST

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The nation's first "feebate" law. 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.

The bill, AB 493, is among a raft of measures under consideration in the Legislature and, behind the scenes, by officials at California's powerful Air Resources Board, to press the auto industry to do its part to fight global warming.

"We put 1.8 million vehicles a year on the road in California," said Assemblyman Ira Ruskin (D-Redwood City), the bill's author. "We have to find ways to get more clean cars on the road and more dirty cars off. There's no time to waste if we're to avoid the catastrophes ahead from global warming.

Feebate laws have been enacted in Canada, Finland and France, and in the European Union overall, countries are moving to tax cars based on carbon emissions. In the United States, feebates have also been considered in New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Vermont.

"Industry argues that market signals don't exist for consumers to buy low-greenhouse-gas and fuel-efficient vehicles," said Daniel Sperling, director of the UC Davis Institute of Transportation Studies and a member of the Air Resources Board. "This bill fixes the market forces."

Auto companies, whose profit margins are higher on big cars, vigorously oppose feebates. They are saying that it is unfair for the poor neighborhoods and low income families.

Advocates counter that air pollution aggravated by global warming disproportionately affects poor neighborhoods. A cleaner fleet, they say, would reduce the asthma, heart disease and other illnesses that plague poor communities.

The program will have compounding benefits: incentives to consumers will increase demand for low polluting cars; which, in turn, will spur manufacturers to produce more of them.

“The automakers have the technology—indeed are using it in some cars today—to make nearly every car and truck they produce eligible for a rebate,” said Dan Kalb, Policy Director for the UCS. “This legislation provides the catalyst they need to make clean cars that everyone can afford.”

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Contact: Nate Pinkston
Phone: (650) 868-2610

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