Hike car taxes to protect environment

 

By Bruce Rhodes

 

November 21, 2002

 

Re: Air quality rarely issue in car purchases, Nov. 14

 

Credit goes to Mike Adler for highlighting the apparent carefree attitude of buyers and sellers when it comes to the environmental impact of vehicle purchases.

 

Given consumers and car companies aren’t behaving in a sufficiently responsible way environmentally, I urge the federal and provincial governments to legislate the needed behaviour through higher related taxes.

 

I would support an immediate tax increase to raise the price of gasoline to $2 per litre. Annual vehicle renewal fees for eight- and 12-cylinder gas-guzzlers should be raised each year and peak at around $3,000 a year by 2007. Doing this would give current owners of inefficient vehicles time to wear out their cars and give automakers fair notice the market for gas-guzzlers will shrink.

 

The likely benefits of this approach are people would drive less and buy more fuel-efficient vehicles; governments would reap extra tax revenue, which could be used to subsidize buyers of cleaner vehicles; businesses for whom gasoline is an expense would have to charge their customers more for products and services, thereby causing prices to more accurately reflect true (including environmental) costs.

 

The biggest losers would be car companies that fail to take responsibility for the environmental impact of their products.

 

Sure, some people would complain if vehicle-related taxes were to increase materially; the biggest dissenters would be those who have paid the least attention to the greenhouse gases they have been adding to the atmosphere.

 

Until the dollar cost of driving does match its total true costs, however, too many of us are getting a virtual “free ride” whereby our use of gas-guzzlers is unnaturally cheap; it is our environment that continues to pay more than its fair share of the price.