Wind: 7 mph
When the idea was first circulated about a special registration fee for people who drive hybrid cars, it seemed like some politician’s attempt at a bad joke.
Vermont and the world face a growing issue with climate change that is fueled, in part, by our love of burning fossil fuels in our cars. To get people to use less fuel we embark on expensive and expansive campaigns to encourage people to carpool, take public transportation, walk, ride their bikes, buy smaller cars and buy cars that get better fuel mileage.
That seems easy enough to understand. With the advent of good reliable hybrid cars, the federal government instituted very attractive gas credits to encourage people to buy hybrid and electric cars.
And the Vermont House, facing budget shortfalls and revenue shortfalls, entertained the idea of a special registration fee for hybrid (and other non-standard-fuel vehicles) that would require those drivers to pay an extra $146 per year to register their vehicles.
The reasoning goes that when tree-hugging, Prius-driving Vermonters drive on the roads and bridges, they cause the same amount of wear and tear as SUV drivers and because their quiet gas-sipping cars are so fuel efficient, they buy less gas and they pay less gas tax. That’s a linear argument at least but insane nonetheless.
It is 2013. The glaciers are melting. Extreme weather events happen somewhere in our country every month and somewhere in the world every other day. These extreme weather events are very costly for towns, the states and the feds as well as insurance companies. There’s a link between climate change and extreme weather. We need to use less fuel – period –full stop.
If penalizing Prius drivers is okay, what’s next? Penalizing people who turn their thermostats down to 63 degrees and who shut the doors of rooms they are not using in the winter? Penalizing people who weatherize so they can heat with less fuel? Penalizing people who grow their own food and drive less often to the grocery store? Penalizing people who compost rather than drive their food waste to the landfill?
The bill did not pass the House last week, but it’s not over. House Speaker Shap Smith thinks it’s got legs and so does Senator Richard Mazza, Democratic chair of the Senate Transportation Committee. Stay tuned and pay attention.