I’m open to opinions, this is the conclusion I have wandered to – I’m thinking through writing more than declaring infallible truth.
The United States has received criticism both internally and internationally about its environmental protocol and consumption-waste lifestyle. This has led me to wonder how I would solve the issues. I think a number of “green” solutions have been taking the wrong approach, and the “green” movement needs realignment.
Celebrities endorsing things that are “green” is ridiculous, it does little more than try to make people feel good about themselves without any serious change. The near celebrity status of the Toyota Prius and hybrid movement is really quite similar; I am not the first to seriously question the environmental benefit of Priuses. Weighing a car down with the use of heavy, expensive and difficult to dispose chemical batteries seems to be backwards thinking. There are other options that consume similar levels of fuel, a Volkswagen Golf TDI is a 4-door car that offers 50 miles per gallon and costs less than the Prius.
The Lotus Elise weighs in just less than 2,000 pounds, goes 0-60 in less than 5 seconds, and offers super car like handling for a price tag in the $40,000 range. It has highway mileage of nearly 30 miles per gallon to boot.
An original Mini weighed between 1400 and 1500 pounds, a new one weighs at least 2,500 pounds. The original Beetle was tipped the scales at just fewer than 1900 pounds, a new one: 2,700 pounds. While cars have certainly gotten heavier, these increases are still less than 3,000 pounds, almost all family cars now are weigh over that. A new Chevrolet Suburban has a curb weight between 5,600 and 6,300 pounds. A Honda Accord now weighs between 3,300 and 3,600 pounds.
Cars have gotten heavier because of added features, particularly advancements like air conditioning and certain safety features. However, materials have also gotten a lot better, manufacturers have gotten much better at using steel and aluminum which enables them to do better quality construction with less material. The main problem has been an arms race amongst consumer, who can have the biggest car with the most room to bring around as much stuff as will possibly fit.
I propose a tax at the time of sale of new cars based on weight. Cars that weigh over 3,000 pounds will be charged $1/pound tax. Current taxes like this such as the gas-guzzler tax are fixed prices (such as $1500), and have done relatively little in the long term to change car design. Car manufacturers can engineer cars to weigh in this category, but they will be slow to do so and the nation should push consumers to lighter cars and stop this trend of the heavy car arms race. The funds from this tax could either help pay off the unbelievable amount of US debt or go to funding public transportation. There should be exceptions for large work-related vehicles; in the grand scheme of things dump trucks for construction are not the vehicles that need re-engineering.
Any car enthusiast could talk your ear off about the advantages of lighter cars, ranging from performance to better gas mileage. Lighter cars also obviously use substantially less material and are thus easier to dispose of.
I think this would be a good first step to changing the American mindset in regards to cars. If we as a nation decide that we want to consume less or go “green”, we need decisive action that will encourage the citizens to follow this initiative. Perhaps it is time to start to move from the “bigger is better” mindset.