Why We Should Tax Hybrids

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Hybrid and electric car owners have long been the beneficiaries of well-intended but poorly rationalized subsidies. It's time to cut them out. Instead, these eco-drivers should be willing to pay a special tax for the privilege of being green.

My wife's brother-in-law works in the perverse industry of carbon credits, known as "cap and trade" in some parts (not Cap'nn Trade, whose eco-crunch cereal is very popular in Brussels, I hear). Carbon credits are intangible tickets that first-world companies buy so that they can pump out the noxious vapors that are the sweet breath of life of modern civilization (Beijing Olympics aside). In return, these companies' carbon offsets are paying for some banana republic not to do something that would make Mother Earth cry - like clearcutting a forest, or holding a Kings of Leon concert, for example. My wife's brother-in-law makes sure that whatever these would-be third-world industrialists are not doing is really a valid carbon offset - an impossible task that attempts to assign a value to a negative. As Joni Mitchell said, you don't know what you've got til it's gone, right? Then again, if the last few years have taught us anything, it's that people in suits can monetize literally anything, no matter how worthless it is.

But I've realized that governments and big business have missed out on one particularly easy green revenue scheme, I mean revenue stream - green drivers. Eco-minded drivers will pay pretty much anything (they pay more to get less horsepower than the comparable dinoblood model). And odds are, hybrid and EV drivers are the folks among us who are least averse to taxation. How bizarre, then, that these are exactly the people to whom governments and automakers have been handing tax credits and subsidies! Horsefeathers, I say - let these people give some green to get some green - and I propose carbon offsets as the way to do so. Bear with me...


Driver A buys a V6 Ford Fusion sedan - a sensible daily driver with a bit of an added kick over the base model. The car burns gas and gas alone, much like 97%+ of the other vehicles on the road today. Driver B pays $5000 more than Driver A to get the Fusion Hybrid, which runs on gas and electricity generated from the brakes and from the main internal combustion powerplant. Driver B's car weighs considerably more due to the inclusion of 800 pounds of NIMH batteries, and so uses more energy per mile to move its mass than Driver A's car (not all of that energy comes from burning fuel, true, but seriously, it's physics!), thus hastening the inevitable heat death of the universe. The fact that hybrid owners are trying to kill us all and bring about ragnarok aside, Driver B probably got a tax credit, despite the fact that those batteries had to be produced somewhere. That somewhere is almost certainly a toxic mine run by brown people in some godforsaken hellhole where Driver B will never visit (or pay for his kids to study abroad - he'll let them go to Australia inside (to learn, obviously!)). In short, all that metal mining and battery production are exactly the kind of projects that European companies pay good money to not happen, so that they can emit that carbon themselves.

Why then, do the "greenest" drivers among us skate by with pats on the back from environmental groups and tax credits, of all things? I'd like to know just how many species of rock-vole have gone extinct per thousand Prii on the road today ... but I guess we'll never know. I propose a simple fix for this situation: you want to buy a hybrid or electric car (thus requiring toxic batteries) instead of the tried and true I/C powered auto (which now come in eco flavors themselves, including EcoBoost, Partial Zero-Emissions Vehicle, and FlexFuel to name a few)? Fine - but you don't get a tax credit - you buy a carbon credit to offset those batteries. Just think of the poisonous strip mine where there could have been lush forests if not for your reckless environmentalism (just ask my wife's brother-in-law if you want the hard numbers on that could-have-been)!


I know that the greeniacs will pony up for a credit - they don't buy hybrids to save money after all! And while they're at it, maybe they can buy a second credit - I've got an empty space in my garage with the letters RAPTOR SVT all over it. And when I'm out enjoying the thrum of dino-powered horsepower, I'll thank myself for doing the planet a favor and not getting an unfair break for "going green."

This piece was written and submitted by a Jalopnik reader and may not express views held by Jalopnik or its staff. But maybe they will become our views. It all depends on whether or not this person wins by whit of your eyeballs in our reality show, "Who Wants to be America's Next Top Car Blogger?"