Outlaw gas-powered vehicles and create a hybrid-only America
If hybrid cars are good enough for federal ($2,000) and state ($600) tax breaks to encourage us to buy them, wouldn't it be even better if all of us could afford them?
If hybrids can get 60 to 100 mpg, shouldn't everyone switch? Wouldn't that benefit everyone's health and wallet?
What is needed is to produce a lot of affordable, standard-size hybrid engines for new car and truck models, and hybrid conversion packs for gasoline and diesel vehicles we already own. Conversion packs in small, medium and large sizes would replace the original gasoline and diesel engines.
But that's not likely to happen if we allow automobile manufacturers to proceed on their present course. I recommend a national program administered by a government agency to declare hybrids the only legal vehicles on the road beginning in 2020. Outlaw after a certain date (penalize owners with higher taxes) the operation of all gasoline- and diesel-only vehicles.
While I don't like the government making choices for us, I know of no other way to ensure compliance before oil supplies are exhausted and the planet is polluted beyond livability, to say nothing about the steep prices of oil for heating and driving. No single automobile company or group of them would convert to all hybrids quickly because it is in their best interest to stretch out hybrid conversion for decades while they continue to sell both gasoline- and diesel-only models, along with a few of the pricier hybrids to those who can afford an extra $5,000 to $8,000.
One reason we need edicts from the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Department of Energy is that we can't depend on all corporations to put our national interests above their desire for profit. This is especially true during this age of global companies whose interests go beyond the geographic boundaries of the countries where their offices are located. And because we no longer can trust them to make such important decisions as providing the best engine types and fuel resources, it becomes necessary for our government not only to regulate the choices they make for us, but also to ensure they make the best choices that will help preserve our health, economic well-being and quality of life.
What would it take to make all that happen? Returning to the national program:
» Create a revolving fund.
» Provide low-interest loans from the fund only to automobile manufacturers in the United States that are willing and capable of developing and producing sufficient highly efficient hybrid engines to meet demands.
» Use the fund to develop hybrid electric engines that use gasohol supplemented with gasoline for cold starts, or diesel-electric, depending on which gives better results.
» If gasohol proves to be more efficient and cleaner, increase its production at least well beyond that called for in the current energy bill.
» how soon can we go 95 percent gasohol as Brazil did?
» to lower taxes on gasohol and correspondingly increase them on gasoline as the national hybrid program matures;
» to include in the program an engine trade-in allowance using our hybrid tax breaks to pay for installing conversion packs in cars we now own -- so we can still drive an SUV if we want to without feeling guilty because all future motor vehicles will be hybrids.
Talk it up. Get involved. Let's cut gas and fuel oil prices, reduce air pollution and eliminate our dependence on Middle Eastern oil.
Ed M. Cesar Jr. lives in Honolulu.