Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Answer to Bush's Hot Air on Global Warming: A Gas Guzzler Tax

President Bush announced today that he would like to set up a series of meetings with 15 nations which produce most of the world's pollutants which cause global warming. The meetings would take place over the course of about 18 months. The intent: to come up with a system to replace the Kyoto Protocol by 2012, the year that long-standing precedent expires. You can read about Mr. Bush's remarks at the New York Times here and at CNN here. He said the meetings would create a "transparent system" so each country could track and be held accountable for its progress.

The timing of Mr. Bush's announcement is clear. He will attend the G8 Summit meeting next week and say that the U.S. will not accept any reductions in greenhouse gases and the various pollutants which cause global warming. He is not willing to cooperate when other countries set the agenda, make deadlines or otherwise reprimand the U.S. And he clearly wants the burden for real action and revolutionary change to be off the shoulders of his administration and off the backs of American corporations -- and out of the headlines as far as he can see.

So the president supports hot air instead. If he were serious, he would create an understandable and fair Gas Guzzler Tax and call it that, straight up and get ready. The special tax, paid annually at registration, would be on vehicles which get less than (I suggest) 33 MPG, perhaps tiered into three fees, those which get fewer than, say, 19 MPG being taxed substantially, those which get 19-25 MPG subject to a moderate tax, and those which get 26-32 MPG a token Gas Guzzler Tax. Vehicles which get better than 33 MPG and more would not be subject to the special Gas Guzzler Tax. The EPA would be required to revamp the quality and real-world accuracy of its MPG ratings, which of course, would all of a sudden be held up to some fierce scrutiny, but so it goes, get ready, here we go, brave new world.

And Mr. Bush would being the ground work for this tax this summer, even while gas prices seem high, to begin January 1st, 2008. That way, he could avoid an unpopular and "regressive" gasoline tax and immediately shift the sale of private vehicles sold in this country to much higher MPG models. Low income people could be given tax breaks or incentives to choose higher MPG cars as well, and there are lots of cheap used cars out there that get 26 MPG or better.

Otherwise, it's just years of talks and more hot air, when in the meantime, there are so many COOL things we could DO.


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