You Got to Be Kidding Me!

Two Emission Credits for The Road

Posted in Economics, Environment, Four Wheels, Politics by Stacy McMahon on February 20, 2007

The WSJ has a column about California’s recent distribution of stickers to allow hybrid vehicles with single drivers to use HOV lanes during rush hour.

A report determined that California’s HOV lanes were operating only at two-thirds of their capacity and not easing congestion as much as they could; the idea was to stimulate demand for hybrids and thus reduce the emissions of greenhouse pollutants.

Their answer was to distribute enough permits to take up the excess capacity in the HOV lanes, reasoning that moving some traffic from the standard to the HOV lanes would reduce overall congestion. By issuing permits only to hybrid cars, the vehicles moving into the HOV lanes would produce less pollution. In the event, the stickers went out the door quickly, and congested areas saw a spike in purchases of hybrid cars.

The column goes on to suggest that, since the stickers remain with the car, not the owner, used hybrids with stickers will become more valuable than those without. That’s undoubtedly true, but it would make more sense to allow the stickers to be bought and sold freely (with the restriction that they can only be used on a hybrid vehicle) Pollution permit markets built on that exact model have worked very well in reducing industrial air pollution, and are starting to be used for water pollution. There is, at this point, no market incentive at all for individual people to reduce their vehicles’ emissions–and vehicle emissions are something like half of the total CO2 and NOX emissions in North America. Monetizing the use of road networks in congested areas would be an excellent step towards reducing those emissions in the most economically efficient way possible.

This is likely part of a set of initiatives being rolled out by California EPA chief Terry Tamminen. I’ve read about this guy before, and not to put too fine a point on it he’s a socialist treehugger and a crank who hates oil and anyone he sees as being anti-environment, but for all that he’s a talented politician and good at finding or inventing, and selling ways to improve environmental protection without doing unnecessary and politically unacceptable damage to the economy.


One Response

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  1. Clint said, on February 21, 2007 at 1:28 pm

    I frickin’ hate HOV lanes. So.. my tax dollars go to create roads I can’t travel on, that are frequently empty — meanwhile I have to travel on a clogged road. When Maryland builds extra lanes, everyone gets to use them.

    Carpools are useless to anyone with flex time, who values freedom of timing over gas money. I leave work anytime between 4-6. That is un-coordinatable with others (even if anyone in this building lived anywhere near me). HOV lanes don’t do jack for me except piss me off.

    That being said, I think allowing hybrids on them, to fill them up more, is a good idea. Virginia already does this. It’s the only reason my sister took a job in Springfield.

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