Remember the Cash For Clunkers program in 2009? While America was languishing in the throes of a deep recession, the federal government came up with a plan to incentivize people to trade in their old gas guzzling cars for newer, more fuel efficient vehicles. Chuck Schumer, a senator from New York and the presumptive majority leader of the Senate if Democrats regain control of that legislative body in 2020, says he will propose a similar plan but one that is much larger in scope.
The Schumer plan would offer consumers large rebates if they switch from a gasoline powered car to an electric car. But there’s a catch. The cars purchased have to be assembled in the United States by American workers using predominantly US-made parts.
In an opinion piece published in the New York Times on October 24, Schumer announced “a new proposal designed to rapidly phase out gas-powered vehicles and replace them with zero-emission, or ‘clean’ vehicles like electric cars. The goal of the plan, which also aims to spur a transformation in American manufacturing, is that by 2040 all vehicles on the road should be clean.”
The nuts and bolts of the plan include $392 billion in vouchers that would be given to consumers who exchange their gas powered vehicles for zero-carbon emissions vehicles, like electric cars, provided they are assembled in the United States.
It would also include $45 billion to help cities and states install electric vehicle charging stations, and $17 billion to help automakers build or retool factories to manufacture hybrid, electric, and hydrogen vehicles. A number of interested parties have endorsed the Schumer plan, including the Natural Resources Defense Council, General Motors, and the IBEW.
One of the issues with the proposal is that like so many other ideas about transportation, it conflates the word “clean” to include hybrids, plug-in hybrids and hydrogen powered vehicles, which muddies the definition of what constitutes a zero emissions vehicle and confuses the buying public.
In a report on Schumer’s plan, the New York Times says it is “aimed at rapidly replacing 63 million of the 270 million cars on American roads with zero-emissions or near-zero-emissions vehicles. If enacted, it would take a significant slice out of carbon dioxide pollution from automobiles, America’s largest producer of planet-warming emissions.”
That may be so, Senator, but carbon emissions from flaring methane — a practice common in the United States — equal those from 75 million vehicles each year. It seems disingenuous to attack half the problem and ignore the other half.
Even Schumer’s modest proposal, which stops far short of the bold strategies we will need to address a warming climate in a meaningful way, has no political support in the US today, where the focus is on demonizing immigrants, ripping children from the arms of their parents, and leaving former allies to their fate in the face of an army of invaders.
“If this were something that Congress could pass, it could make a difference,” Kevin Book, an analyst with ClearView Energy Partners, a nonpartisan Washington research firm, tells the Times. “The question is whether it could ever pass.”
It would be so much simpler to enact a carbon assessment and let market forces decide the winners and losers. No rebates, rules, or regulations. Mr. and Mrs. America, the price of gasoline is now $5.00 a gallon and going up a buck every year. You decide what vehicle you want to drive. Keep it simple, stupid.
Such a plan is not politically viable you say? Then work to change the political landscape. We only have a few years to fix this and we have to get it right. What part of “extinction” do we not understand?
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