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Everyone knows about the holes in the O-Zone layer and how much pollution is in our air, but very little seems to be done to improve this condition. When wondering where all this pollution comes from one does not have to look too hard; just look at our cars. There are millions of cars in the country and they all produce air pollution constantly. Just by reducing the pollution from vehicles a small fraction would cause a great benefit. One way to complete this would be to increase the registration tax on cars and trucks with lower gas mileage to discourage people from buying those vehicles.
Oil is a very limited resource and we all know the controversy surrounding Iraq and the Middle East because of it. One way to eliminate the controversy would be to stop being so dependent on it. Presently, our lifestyle would collapse if we were cut off from oil because we rely on it for so many different things. The best way to become independent of these countries would be to stretch out the current oil reserves to last as long as possible and in the meantime develop some alternate energy resources so that we can convert to them when the time is right. Why should we want to become independent from other countries? We should want to be independent because that is the goal of our country. The American ideal is being called into question because of our dependence on other countries’ oil.
One supporter for the encouragement to buy hybrid cars is oddly enough, the CEO and chairman of Ford Motor Co., Bill Ford Jr. He understands the need for more fuel efficient cars and has led the way in providing hybrid cars to the public. However, he has been criticized as being somewhat of a hypocrite for wanting to capitalize on the market for SUV’s like the gas guzzling Ford Excursion. Ford understands that, “Americans will not change their vehicle buying habits or embrace higher-priced hybrid technology unless they are hit hard in their pocketbooks” (Garsten). While he may not be the best expert on hybrid technology or air pollution, he certainly knows a lot about the market for automobiles. He has seen that even though gas prices are very high, people still demand the big SUV’s like the Ford Excursion. To try and help the environment he released a fuel efficient, hybrid SUV called the Mercury Mariner. This is an attempt to appeal to both the environmentally conscious and those that just want an SUV.
The popularity of SUV’s and other light trucks is a large part of why the issue of oil and gas is such an important issue now. Our gas consumption has risen 24 percent since 1990, and the government says we are on our way to burn up to 48 percent by 2025 (Parker). This is a very drastic increase when you compare it to a 5 percent increase between 1980 and 1990 (Parker). This can be explained by seeing how many people are driving SUV’s and pickups now, compared to then. In 1990 light trucks made up about a quarter of the nation’s driving fleet, but in 2003 that percentage had already risen to 37 percent (Parker).
Sport utility vehicles have been blamed for much of the high gas prices and fuel inefficiency, but people continue to buy them. Because of this I think that the registration tax on vehicles with low gas mileage should be a very substantial one. It needs to be substantial enough so that people will really notice it. If that tax was coupled with the incentive to buy hybrids, a tax break, then the hybrid vehicles would be on a more even playing field with the SUV’s. Right now hybrid vehicles are thousands more than other cars so they are not popular at all except among environmentally concerned celebrities.
Some may wonder why hybrid vehicles are being promoted so much, and why would anyone spend extra money for them. Basically, they are called hybrid because they do not use just one type of engine; they use an internal combustion engine, like typical automobiles, and an electric motor. However, the hybrids do not need to be plugged in to the wall or anything, they gain their power from the movement of the internal combustion engine. That way the electric motor can supplement the engine so that less gas is used. According to the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality hybrid cars can “reduce air emissions of smog-forming pollutants by up to 90 percent and cut carbon dioxide emissions in half.” Reducing emissions that much would have a great effect on emissions; considering that vehicles can contribute up to 70 percent of annual carbon monoxide emissions in areas (Idaho).
One important factor to consider when discussing this issue is that it will affect big businesses that use inefficient vehicles to transport their goods. The registration tax in question will certainly hurt them, but I feel that there are ways to execute it without destroying the economy. There could be a clause in the registration tax that allows vehicles that transport goods to have a cheaper registration tax. I still believe that it should affect the businesses in some way because they need to consider the environment to an extent just like everyone else. They need to find ways to not be so dependent on oil and gasoline because a conversion to an alternate resource will become necessary eventually. It is better if we make an effort to change our main energy resource before we are forced to because of a depletion of our oil reserves.
In addition to the registration tax, there should be a restriction on the use of the money gained from the tax. The money should go towards not only highways, but also to other ways to aid the reduction of inefficient vehicles on the road. This would include mass transit, research into cheaper hybrid technology, alternate energy sources, and air quality improvement projects. This would prove useful to all of the states that allocate all of the gas tax revenue strictly to highway use. Those states are not allowed to use the money for any of the above reasons, but they would be able to use the money from registration tax on those reasons without changing their current legislation.
Some of this money could also go to relieve the tax on gas, thus giving everyone a tax break. By doing that you are discouraging fuel inefficient cars, but at the same time not punishing all drivers. The government needs the extra revenue as well. Despite being in an enormous deficit at the moment, the revenue gained from the gas tax is constantly decreasing. Because of increased fuel efficiency the government continues to increase the tax rate, but still is not gaining as much revenue.
I feel that the reasons for the heavy registration tax on vehicles with low gas mileage far outweigh the reasons against it. Several reports, and even the CEO of Ford, have suggested further raising the gas tax, but the registration tax would be a better way to achieve the same goal. It also will promote expansion in technology which will provide jobs and it will protect our earth. When thinking about this registration tax, one must not limit themselves to thinking in the short term, but must think about years down the road, and for future generations.

Works Cited

Garsten, Ed. “Bill Ford: Steeper gas taxes would fuel hybrid demand”. [web page] April 2004; [Accessed 19 April 2005].
Idaho Department of Environmental Quality. “The Benefits of Fuel-Efficient Vehicles”. [web page] March 2004; [Accessed 19 April 2005].
Parker, Jocelyn. “Who’s at fault for Gas prices? Partly, it’s us”. [web page] May 2004; [Accessed 19 April 2005].

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