Personal tools
 
Views

Debate: Government incentives for petrol-free vehicles

From Debatepedia

Jump to: navigation, search
[Digg]
[reddit]
[Delicious]
[Facebook]

Should governments incentivize the use of petrol-free vehicles?

Background and context

The increasing global use of cars is causing more airborne pollution, despite agreements by many governments to cut such emissions (e.g. through the Kyoto Agreement). Cars which do use non-petrol fuel sources e.g. hydrogen, solar power, battery or fuel cells, etc. have been under study for years by the car industry and are starting to attract political attention. For example, California has long had mandatory targets for sales of non-petrol vehicles, and now U.S. President Bush has introduced tax breaks for environmentally friendly cars.

[Edit]
[Delete Subquestion section]
[Add new subquestion section]
[Move subquestion section down]

Argument #1

[Add New]

Yes

Cars which use less environmentally damaging fuel sources than petrol would be good for the protection of the environment. Petrol and diesel engines produce pollution both on a local and a global scale, contributing to poor health and global warming. They are also a major consumer of non-renewable energy, depleting global reserves and making us dependent upon oil-rich states for our energy security. Therefore, a scheme which can encourage people to use alternative fuels instead of petrol will have a positive environmental, economic and political impact.

[Add New]

No

The environmental impact of encouraging non-petrol cars is mixed. Conventional engines are much more fuel-efficient and much less polluting than they were twenty years ago, and further improvements are likely in future. Alternative fuels may not be less damaging than petrol: it may just be that they have not been around long enough for their full consequences to be appreciated. For example, the energy to power up batteries or fuel cells, or to produce hydrogen, is often derived from fossil fuels; even if there is less local pollution, the environmental impact of powering vehicles is simply transferred somewhere else, rather than removed. But, even if this is not so, the point is that such a scheme does not move people from private to public transport. Indeed, by acting as an inducement to drive certain sorts of cars, it may be interpreted as a governmental affirmation of private car use. This runs against the contention that pooled, public transport is more environmentally friendly than individual private transport.

[Edit]
[Delete Subquestion section]
[Add new subquestion section]
[Move subquestion section down]
[Move subquestion section up]

Argument #2

[Add New]

Yes

An incentive would be an effective way to encourage more widespread use of non-petrol cars. New technologies can be expensive to research and are often prohibitively expensive in their early stages, before there is a critical mass of adoption. This is a vicious circle that means that as the dominant fuel, petrol has an inbuilt defensive advantage against new, possibly competitive rivals. A form of incentivisation would provide an effective method of negating this disadvantage faced by non-petrol cars, even if it was only used during the initial phases before the alternatively fuelled cars were more widely used.

[Add New]

No

Government incentives are economically inefficient. They are a form of social engineering, since people express their preferences through the market and incentives are a way of changing the market conditions so people’s views change. This is economically inefficient as it amounts to using public funds to “bribe” people out of the choice they would otherwise make, into making a different choice because the government thinks that they should.

[Edit]
[Delete Subquestion section]
[Add new subquestion section]
[Move subquestion section down]
[Move subquestion section up]

Argument #3

[Add New]

Yes

It is appropriate for government to operate a centralised transport policy. A successful, effective transport system will have a marked increase on a country’s economic success. It also has a widespread and positive social impact. However, because of the large demand for limited resources and the threat of “externalised” costs such as pollution (i.e. the polluter suffers little consequence from their own pollution, so no individual has an incentive to stop polluting, even if collectively pollution is a big problem), this is an appropriate area for government to implement a transport plan. Incentivising a particular form of transport, for example non-petrol cars, would be a perfectly natural fit with such a plan.

[Add New]

No

Such a plan uses government power to disadvantage private choices. People should be allowed to choose the most suitable form of transport in their individual circumstances, as a matter of private choice. Government incentives for particular choices, funded by taxpayers, are effectively an interference with this mechanism of private choice.

[Edit]
[Delete Subquestion section]
[Add new subquestion section]
[Move subquestion section down]
[Move subquestion section up]

Argument #4

[Add New]

Yes

Incentives are an effective way to make people act in a certain way. Even if people accept that petrol cars are environmentally damaging and so ultimately less desirable than alternatives, this may be a “soft” preference. Monetary incentives are often a more effective way of actually persuading people to amend their choices.

[Add New]

No

Non-petrol cars are not what the car driving public wants. Having weighed the various factors, if drivers decided that the benefits of non-petrol cars were of a certain standard, they would buy them in large enough numbers not to attract subsidisation. The fact that they do not is an indication that those drivers are happy enough driving petrol cars.

[Edit]
[Delete Subquestion section]
[Add new subquestion section]
[Move subquestion section up]

Argument #5

[Add New]

Yes

This is an effective policy even if only on a small scale. Petrol cars globally are only one of a number of contributing factors to various environmental problems, and any one country’s cars are of course an even smaller part. However, adopting a policy such as this one sends out a strong policy message affirming a positive approach to environmental matters and this could have a “snowball” effect. It can be pursued in tandem with other policies, and so even if it is only a relatively small part of the overall environmental problem, tackling it can be worthwhile.

[Add New]

No

This policy is too small to make any difference. First, cars are only one of many users of petrol and petrol is only one of the many factors which contribute to environmental problems. Cars in any one country are an even smaller part of this overall picture, and so this is a drop in the ocean in terms of the net effect it will have in reducing environmental damage. This is especially so as it simply pits one country’s regulation against other countries’ more deregulatory approach and so may lead to some shifting of the problem rather than actually solving it.

See also

External links and resources

Books

Problem with the site? 

Tweet a bug on bugtwits
.