Help Me Put Cleaner Cars on the Road
by Asm Ira Ruskin, Fri Mar 09, 2007 at 07:22:14 AM EST
Last week I introduced "The Clean Car Discount Act of 2007" (AB 493) to reduce harmful global warming and smog-forming pollution from passenger vehicles by establishing an innovative program to make cleaner cars and light duty trucks more affordable. This is a market-based program that will provide one-time rebates on purchases of new vehicles that are cleaner. The rebates are funded by one-time surcharges on new vehicles with very high emissions of global warming pollution. AB 493 is sponsored by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) and strongly supported by major environmental and consumer groups.
Last year the Legislature and the Governor joined together and passed AB 32, The California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006. The Governor, the Legislature, and the people of California have said that global warming is a top priority.
It is critical that we establish a program like this now. Transportation accounts for over 40 percent of global warming emissions in this state, and 2/3 of that is from passenger cars and light trucks. That's as much global warming pollution as all of the industrial sources in the state combined. California is a car culture, and we will have to address the vehicles we drive if we are ever going to meet the global warming targets we've set.
The Clean Car Discount Act preserves consumer choice. Here's how it works - my bill creates a spectrum of cars and light trucks, from clean to dirty, that will allow consumers a broad choice of vehicles with either a rebate or without any change in the price. About 40-45% of cars will get a rebate, 20-25% won't be effected, and the rest will receive a surcharge. There are vehicles of all types throughout the spectrum. I have the data for 2004 models, and if this program had been in effect then, some SUVs would have qualified for a rebate, like the Saturn Vue and the Pontiac Montana SUVs. The most popular minivans on the market, the Honda Odyssey and the Dodge Caravan, would not have been effected. Only the dirtiest, most polluting cars would have had a surcharge. Cars like the Dodge Viper, the Ford Expedition, and the Lincoln Luxury Town Car. It is also important to know that there's an exemption for small business people. Anyone who uses their car or truck for work, for example to haul their tools or to make deliveries, will be exempt from this program. I was very careful to design this bill to preserve consumer choice and provide incentives to get people driving cleaner vehicles.
Over the years, the automobile industry has repeatedly resisted safety measures and pollution reductions that consumers want--including seat belts, airbags and emissions controls. Right now they are suing California over emission standards that California passed a few years ago. The auto manufacturers have the technology, but continue to push inefficient vehicles to hold on to their traditional market, without dealing with the realities of a changing market. The Clean Car Discount 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. If anything, this bill encourages the automakers to improve their products to provide consumers with what they want.