Monday, January 28, 2008

You soon may pay a price to choose the car you want to buy in California

If you buy a car that is less environment-friendly than what Big Brother says it should be, should you pay an extra tax for the privilege? If you said “no” don’t live in California. However if the golden state is the leader in wacky legislation in the country then you might not be able to escape this Orwellian restriction on your rights because your state may follow with their own version of ‘we know what’s best for you more than you do’.

Without attracting a lot of attention (the news media, where are you?), a new $2,500 tax is about to be added to many cars. The higher cost of excercizing freedom of choice will allow the government to decide whether you should drive large, safe cars or cars that are smaller and not safe or comfortable. The result is likely to be that the wealthier folks can by cars they want but others can only buy what the state says they should. Once again we see Democrats making life ‘better’ for the the poor and middle class among us; I wonder when the middle class and poor will stop voting for the party that says they are their ‘champions’?

To enshrine the concept into law, the Democrat controlled California Assembly is expected to vote soon on the California Clean Car Discount Act, which, if passed, would be the first law in the country imposing charges and granting rebates based on a vehicle’s emission of carbon dioxide and other gases. There would be a registration fee of up to $2,500 on new larger, more comfortable and safer cars, while less ‘polluting’ cars like the Toyota Prius, Honda Civic, Nissan Sentra and other fuel-efficient cars would get rebates - once again the power of the government to dictate what is ‘in your best interest’ through taxation at work.

The law is one of many others proposed to to force the auto industry to assist in the fight against global warming. As Democrat Assemblyman Ira Ruskin of Redwood City, California says:

"We put 1.8 million vehicles a year on the road in California 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."

The Democrats have a good chance of passing the law because the Bush administration refused to help California enforce a 2002 state law to cut carbon emissions from vehicles by 30% in the next eight years by setting its own CAFÉ standards. Unless the decision to not allow California to set its own rules to combat global warming by increasing the CAFÉ standards for vehicles sold in the state is overruled by the courts or by federal legislation, car emissions must be cut by other means.

Similar laws have been enacted enacted in Canada, Finland and France, and in the European Union (you don’t think the Democrats came came up with this on their own do you?). As you might expect, other Democrat bastions of liberty; New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Vermont, are also considering the same approach.

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

Even if California enacts limits on vehicle emissions, other restrictions would be needed to meet the state’s commitment to reduce greenhouse gases to 1990 levels over the next 13 years as required by the climate law Schwarzenegger and the Democrat legislature passed previously; that law requires radical cuts in transportation emissions, which the state says are responsible for about 40% of California’s carbon output.

As with most Democrat proposals, there are unintended consequences in this also. A reduction in sales tax revenue from the law can be expected. A spokesman for the California Motor Car Dealers Assn, Brian Maas, points out "If it (the proposed law) is successful, and more people buy fuel-efficient, smaller, less expensive cars. We’re talking about a hit to local and state government in the millions of dollars."

To implement the law, the state air board would rank passenger vehicles, beginning with 2011 models, according to the amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases they emit. Fees and rebates would be applied on a sliding scale with about a quarter of vehicles unaffected and about 35% would be charged a fee collected by auto dealers and sent to the State Board of Equalization that would pay for rebates to about 40% of buyers; namely, those that choose money over safety.

Automakers and the United Auto Workers warn that the fees could have a disproportionate effect on lower-income buyers who may need large family cars and businesses that haul equipment. With their typical illogic, environment activists justify the cost penalty for lower income people by saying that air pollution aggravated by global warming "disproportionately affects poor people" and “cleaner vehicles would reduce the asthma, heart disease and other illnesses that plague poor communities”.

Regardless of whether the bill passes, pressure is increasing to find new ways to deal with transportation emissions. California Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata asked the air board "to act with appropriate speed and creativity" on such measures as "efficient car purchase incentives, smart growth investments, increased transit usage and other means."

If the approach taken by the proposed law isn’t bad enough, environmentalists want the air board to use its "zero-emission vehicle" regulations to require auto companies to move to a 100% hybrid-electric fleet by the end of the next decade. Others want to bring automakers under a statewide cap on emissions so that they would have to seek offsets in order to sell vehicles that emit more than a certain level of greenhouse gases.

State Attorney General Jerry ('moonbeam') Brown is also trying to find ways to encourage cities and counties to control the pesky greenhouse emmissions by reducing driving.

Democrats are optimistic that they will win the court fight against the federal Environmental Protection Agency over emission standards which they say will make a big dent in auto emissions through regulations; sixteen other states are also seeking ways to circumvent federal environmental rule-setting but California is leading the way as they usually do with unwise legislation.

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