Progressives Have Ideas: Gas Prices

A new Gallup poll shows that while President Bush claims “he can do little to address gas prices in the short run, two in three Americans say there are reasonable steps that he should take right now that would significantly lower U.S. gas prices.” They’re right — gas prices can be lowered sooner rather than later, and American Progress has laid out a series of steps to do just that:

Low-income scrap-and-replace programs: Low-income drivers tend to own less efficient vehicles that are also often the least reliable, the least safe and the most polluting cars on the road. Scrappage programs designed to get the most polluting cars off the roads have already been used successfully in a few states.

Feebates: Unlike tax rebates, feebates provide a direct signal of the value of efficiency to consumers where they pay the most attention – at the sticker price. A fee or a rebate is assigned to each individual vehicle type based on a fuel economy benchmark set annually for each vehicle size class. Buyers of more efficient vehicles receive a rebate; buyers of less efficient vehicles pay a fee.

Letting hybrids use high occupancy vehicle lanes: As an additional incentive for early adopters of the most efficient automobiles, single occupant hybrids should be allowed in high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes. While advanced vehicles remain a limited portion of the market, this would further stimulate purchase and use of efficient hybrid vehicles.

Replacement tire standards: Under federal fuel-economy standards, automakers equip new vehicles with tires that have a lower rolling resistance, which leads to higher fuel efficiency. By requiring replacement tires to be as efficient as new car tires, gasoline savings would begin immediately, saving over 7 billion barrels of oil over the next 50 years.

Car-sharing: Recognizing that the average U.S. private car sits idle 96 percent of the time, car-sharing programs could decrease annual driving without loss of convenience. Pioneered in Europe and introduced in the United States by Zipcar and Flexcar, car-sharing programs provide participants with access to cars in their neighborhood for short-term rental. Zipcar claims that each of their cars replaces 7 to 10 privately owned cars.