You probably thought that, when President Bush rejected the Kyoto Global Warming Protocols, that was the end of it for all of us. At least until Jan. 20, 2005. But California now has a law with a stated goal to make California the front-runner in complying with the Kyoto Protocols. It sets up a “voluntary” CO2-emissions reporting system and registry, and provides for the granting of emission-reduction credits, a la Kyoto.
Complying with Kyoto means reducing all carbon dioxide emissions by at least a third from current levels. Operators of passenger vehicles and light-duty trucks are allegedly responsible for approximately 40 percent of total annual California greenhouse-gas emissions. It follows that if California could keep almost all passenger vehicles and light-duty trucks off the road, California would be in compliance with Kyoto.
The bill the governor just signed into law contains a requirement that the State Air Resources Board develop and adopt, by Jan. 1, 2005 – just in time for Al Gore’s inaugural? – regulations that will achieve “the maximum feasible reduction of greenhouse gases emitted by passenger vehicles and light-duty trucks.” SUVs – which fall into the light-duty truck category – are the worst greenhouse-gas emitting offenders.
Now, your SUV doesn’t emit any greenhouse gases just sitting in your garage. You have to get in, start it up and head for soccer practice before it emits any greenhouse gases. So Gov. Davis hasn’t declared war on your SUV or its manufacturer. It’s you – the driver – he’s after.
If complying with Kyoto is the real goal, then California should tax the daylights out of all carbon-based mobility fuels, starting now. Tax gasoline, diesel fuel, ethanol, methanol, LNG, compressed methane – whatever.
Slap the tax on in stages and measure the results. Start with a dollar a gallon. Check the pumps. See how much less fuel has been sold. Probably not much less. So up the tax to two dollars a gallon. Then, three. Four, five, maybe six. Keep slapping on higher and higher taxes until either (a) the Kyoto goals are achieved or (b) vigilantes take over in Sacramento.
But here’s what’s really weird about this law. Those mandated regulations are supposed to apply only to those vehicles manufactured in the 2009 model year, and any model year thereafter. By then, of course, Davis won’t be governor anymore, even if he is re-elected this year. Of course, if enough motor-voters come to realize the implications of this law, he may not be re-elected.
We know the SARB regulators are considering – among other things – slapping a punitive sales tax on the purchase price on all post-2008 vehicles in California, based upon the horsepower rating of the vehicle’s engine. The tax might not be much for wimpy cars, but could be big bucks for your new SUV. However, the SARB is required to validate the reductions in carbon-dioxide emissions that would actually result from any of their recommended actions.
How could they validate such reductions? Does anyone suppose that, after you have paid the state of California an extra $5,000 in sales tax to buy a SUV, you’re going to let it sit in the garage. How could jacking up the price of your SUV possibly result in your driving it less?
Or, they may slap a punitive annual license fee on all post-2008 vehicles, based upon the number of miles the vehicle was driven – according to its odometer – during the past year. That might work, since, as every used car dealer knows, it is impossible to set the odometer back.
Last, but not least, they’re considering slapping a punitive tax on the price of gasoline burned by post-2008 vehicles. How might that work? Well, every gas station would have to have two sets of pumps – one for pre-2009 models and another for post-2008 models. The price of gasoline at the post-2008 pumps would be several dollars per gallon more. There would probably be video cameras at all pre-2009 pumps, recording the license plate of every vehicle. The license plate number would be automatically checked against Department of Motor Vehicles records for vehicle model year.
The registered owner of any post-2008 vehicle caught filling up at a pre-2009 pump would be subject to a heavy fine, even if she could prove she was at the World Cup at the time. Of course, such fines are the price you soccer-moms will have to pay to ensure California remains the front-runner in complying with the Kyoto Protocols.