Is It Time For Suv Restrictions?

Latest scientific evidence tells us that climate changes are worsening. Political developments make it clear that political leaders are unlikely to come to an agreement to address them any time soon. Economic analysis and common sense tell us that containing fossil fuel consumption with greater discipline and stringent regulation may be the only possible option left. Should be begin with energy guzzling SUVs....
Is it Time for SUV Restrictions?
Source - Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3APolice_SUV_in_Old_Town_of_Shangri-La_parking_lot.JPG)

As the world struggles with the growing fear of global warming and potentially catastrophic climate changes that threaten to challenge our very existence and put the future of life on this planet in jeopardy, it is time for us to review and mend our ways. Restricting energy guzzling SUVs may be an important step. Many people, however, feel that it involves important questions of one’s freedom and market efficiency, which need to be considered by policy makers.

 

While it is true that there are many issues involved here, the reality is that we are asking the wrong questions.

The issue here

is not one of restrictions, nor is it a matter of liberty. It is not even a question of free markets. The real question that we are faced with, pertains to choosing the option that will help us tackle the challenge arising from the continuing damage to the environment, primarily by the relentless consumption of fossil fuels. All forms of fossil fuel consumption are responsible, but then, some can be sacrificed more easily than others. This is where the restriction on use of energy guzzling private vehicles become an option worth considering.

Restriction of Freedom vs. Independence of Society to Select the Best Option

No one likes restrictions on one's freedom, but when that freedom or the very basis of that freedom is threatened, then restrictions may become the need of the hour. The case of proposed restrictions on gas guzzling SUVs is no different.

If the world was not reeling under the constant threat of consequences from global warming, if the very survival of the human civilization arising from climate changes resulting from fossil fuel burning wan not at stake, then there would be no need to think about restrictions on SUVs. Even if we had developed cleaner fuel, which did not threaten our environment, we may not have to consider such an option. In such case, it would have been more about individual choice and freedom, which all of us would like to protect at all cost.

Unfortunately, that is not to be; and what is happening in the form of proposed restrictions on SUVs is not about freedom of individual to use SUV, but about the freedom of the society to survive by selecting the best option.

Urgent Need to Find Ways of Reducing Gas Demand

Today, the gas guzzling tendencies in each and every form need to be controlled, and SUVs are no exceptions. Since our civilization has become dependent on use of gas, and this gas is supplied through the process of open market, any activity that consumes gas in excessive amounts and thereby leads to escalation of demand is a problem that needs to be solved.

Other Options: Rationing and Taxes on Fossil Fuels

One very

valid argument that can be raised against such proposed restriction is that there could be better options. That is certainly true. The easiest solution for addressing global warming and climate change could be a universal commitment on per capita use of fossil fuel. To make it work practically, this rationing can be restricted only to private use by individuals, such as in vehicles and other private use. However, the political realities of democratic governance make it an option that is unlikely to have many buyers or supporters. It is also unlikely that countries around the world will be able to come to a single level of cap applicable, though the possibility of country wise caps could be a bit more feasible.

Another very workable option could an excise tax on all forms of fossil fuel. An ideal situation would be if there could be a global consensus for it. Something like a twenty percent tax on all fossil fuels, to be collected by respective Governments would also create an easy incentive for the Governments who are always wanting to find politically acceptable ways of taxing people. Nothing could be better than a tax to save the world from impending disaster. This is certainly the most workable solution today, and if it has not been adopted so far, it is on the behest of industrial lobbies, who stand to lose out on the profits they derive from rampant use of fossil fuel. This is also one option that makes a lot of sense in economic terms. When fossil fuel consumption is threatening the world and human existence, he negative externalities of its use are very high and must be absorbed in its market price so as to ensure that price includes the marginal social cost of using fossil fuel.

Unfortunately, political realities, lobbying and individual greed is unlikely to get these somewhat easier and more meaningful options adopted by Governments. This means that only softer options like restricting SUV use may be practical.

Best Form of Restriction

Restrictions on SUVs can come in form of a ban, or in form of tax. A tax may be preferable, as it will allow people to weigh their options and gradually shift their dependence on SUVs to more fuel effective options. It will also earn some precious revenue for the state, and allow the transition to be smooth and less painful.



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