The Unintended Consequence of Green Cars

EconMatters's picture

By EconMatters

Energy and environment conservation has been high on every nation’s agenda probably even before the oil crisis in the 1970s.  Green cars such as hybrids and electric cars have been gaining popularity as well as auto market share in the U.S. driven in part by high oil and fuel prices, as well as government policies, and subsidies in some cases, pushing for higher fuel efficiency.  

Most people think “eco-driving” or even carpooling is a win-win-- saving gas money and the environment at the same time.  But it looks like what may be good for the environment, is actually bad news for the government.  

Source: EIA


You see, for each gallon of gasoline or diesel we gas up in our cars, there’s a portion of tax that goes to the state government to fund the building and maintenance of roads and bridges.  So unfortunately, more fuel efficiency and less driving even by carpooling means less tax revenue for the government, and the green car is to blame.



Further Reading - Chinese Electricity Conclusion Re-examined

For example, in Vermont, revenue collection of the state’s transportation fund has been shy of their target for seven straight years.  According to AP, 25% of Vermont’s expected $232-million transportation fund in the current fiscal year is supposed to come from the gasoline tax of about 20 cents a gallon.   

In order to make up for the shortfall in the fuel tax revenue, instead of coming up with ways to cut costs, Vermont and Oregon reportedly are mapping out a possible new scheme of taxing drivers not based on how much fuel is burned but how far each vehicle travels as AP reports.

Although Europe has a longer history and higher adoption rate of fuel efficient cars, what’s taking place in the U.S. right now is actually the conclusion of a U.K. study published back in 2011:  

“The drive to promote greener, more efficient motoring will blow a £13bn hole in the public finances as revenue from fuel and road taxes dries up." 

 “Drivers may end up being taxed more, even as the industry adapts to meet environmental targets….[government will be] forced to look at ways of clawing back the money motorists think they will be saving."   

Now the U.S. is projected to have high growth in green car sales.  Market research firm Mintel says that U.S. sales of hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and electric cars should reach 440,000 units in 2012 -- a 73% improvement over 2011, reaching  850,000 in unit sales by 2017, or 5% of the U.S. auto market.  


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Separately, a 2011 study by the J.D. Power and Associates projects major growth, as much as 10%, of vehicles with fuel-efficient technologies by 2016, which would represent a four-fold increase in the sales numbers for green cars compared to 2010.


If these are realistic forecasts, then don’t be surprised to see a Big Brother GPS inside every vehicle in the country as Vermont Transportation Secretary Brian Searles indicated,

“….. calculating how much of a VMT tax is owed would be done through the global positioning system devices that are expected to be standard equipment [capable of tracking location, time] in cars later this decade.”   


I personally can’t even begin to count the possible number of privacy concerns having a government GPS inside my car, not to mention the additional resource tracking and collecting this new mileage tax would require, and I thought the U.S. Federal and state government has had enough funding problems already?    

I guess the moral of the story is that it’s all about money, and whatever "savings" coming out from one end will eventually need something else (e.g. new taxes) to replenish, at least as far as “government budget” is concerned. Ultimately, taxpayers still end up footing all bills and more--in this case, you get hit with a new mileage tax (plus a U.S. government issue GPS to boot) before even seeing any ROI from your Prius.


Further Reading - Rising Gas Prices Threaten Economy Again 

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Herkimer Jerkimer's picture

…mapping out a possible new scheme of taxing drivers not based on how much fuel is burned but how far each vehicle travels as AP reports.

I’ll say it:

I think that the population in general should begin a very lively, very public discussion, directly referencing the 2nd amendment and all it entails, including but not withstanding, WHY the 2nd was included and expanding out upon the idea that we should begin thinking about thinking about the idea of when we should discuss the idea of “When are we going to get the guns?”

Calm down Herk!

Oh, I’m calm. I just see what’s coming. I just had to have a discussion with some people tonight, a little “Told you so!” as I foretold of this years ago.

Perhaps you should read the article not a couple of days ago, about the idea of clawing back taxes in California. You don’t think this won’t spread like wildfire?
CALIFORNIA SCREWS SILICON VALLEY: Entrepreneurs And Angels Socked With Absurd Retroactive Tax

And as smart as I am, I know there are a lot smarter $#!+rats out there, plottin’ and schemin’ to figure out ways to take our money.

They will come and pick us up by our ankles and shake to make sure they’ve got every last coin out of our pockets. Mark my words.

They are going to start by nibbling around the edges, then moving inwards. They’ll pick the low hanging fruit first, with the useful idiots cheering them on.

Oh yeah… What a good reason to have taken the guns and the 2nd away from us, eh?

When does it end?

When do we just say, “That’s enough!’

Or better yet, “That’s the line in the sand. You will not cross it.”

Because there is a line in the sand, isn’t there?

Where is yours?

I’ll be expecting a visit from the cops under the administration’s new executive orders.

Hang on, somebody’s knocking at my door? It looks like the cops?… I’ll be back in a mome…



I am reminded of a Mayers book, We Thought We Were Free.

I present the quote for somber thoughtful reflection.

"To live in this process is absolutely not to be able to notice it—please try to believe me—unless one has a much greater degree of political awareness, acuity, than most of us had ever had occasion to develop. Each step was so small, so inconsequential, so well explained or, on occasion, ‘regretted,’ that, unless one were detached from the whole process from the beginning, unless one understood what the whole thing was in principle, what all these ‘little measures’ that no ‘patriotic German’ could resent must some day lead to, one no more saw it developing from day to day than a farmer in his field sees the corn growing. One day it is over his head.

"How is this to be avoided, among ordinary men, even highly educated ordinary men? Frankly, I do not know. I do not see, even now. Many, many times since it all happened I have pondered that pair of great maxims, Principiis obsta and Finem respice—‘Resist the beginnings’ and ‘Consider the end.’ But one must foresee the end in order to resist, or even see, the beginnings. One must foresee the end clearly and certainly and how is this to be done, by ordinary men or even by extraordinary men? Things might have. And everyone counts on that might.

"Your ‘little men,’ your Nazi friends, were not against National Socialism in principle. Men like me, who were, are the greater offenders, not because we knew better (that would be too much to say) but because we sensed better. Pastor Niemöller spoke for the thousands and thousands of men like me when he spoke (too modestly of himself) and said that, when the Nazis attacked the Communists, he was a little uneasy, but, after all, he was not a Communist, and so he did nothing; and then they attacked the Socialists, and he was a little uneasier, but, still, he was not a Socialist, and he did nothing; and then the schools, the press, the Jews, and so on, and he was always uneasier, but still he did nothing. And then they attacked the Church, and he was a Churchman, and he did something—but then it was too late."

Herkimer Jerkimer's picture







Oh look! What a surprise!


Homeland Security Is Researching A Huge New Public Surveillance System


It is now almost daily, that we are seeing news of new encroachments upon our rights.


When do we say "Enough!"?


When will we have taken enough of them shredding the constitution?




dunce's picture

You do not need GPS to get the miles driven, there is a computer in your car already to control emissions. A little more very cheap memory and the total miles driven can be recorded and downloaded annually.

flacorps's picture

Fuck 'em if they can't figure out how to tighten their belts.

Walt D.'s picture

This sounds like another scan. Gas sales in California have actually gone up considerably in the last 20 years. The roads are more crowded and congested as ever, and not just during the rush hour. Just another excuse to raise taxes to pay exhoribitant salaries, benefits and pensions to state and local government employees.

smiler03's picture

Per capita consumption from 1980 to 2010 is DOWN from 450 gallons to 400 gallons.

smiler03's picture

Fuck the Toyota Prius, buy a BMW 320D EfficientDynamics and get more miles per gallon and better performance.

Unless you live in Hollywood you will also have far more "street cred"

Stuck on Zero's picture

Isn't a mileage tax regressive?  Don't the poor have to get to their jobs?  Aren't traffic tickets regressive?  Shouldn't everyone be fined as a proportion of their income?  Aren't fewer miles being driven because the government is exporting all the jobs to China and sapping the life out of our industries with rules and regulations? 

Gee.  These are tough question for governments.  I'd like to get answers.


skunzie's picture

We have to have the most ignorant (or duplicitous) government history has ever known.  On the one hand we have a war on producing our own gasoline from domestic sources, which will keep us dependent on foreign oil.  As a result, we turn to "electric" cars which in reality are not good for the envirnoment as all they do is push the pollution up the power generating system.  Then on the other hand, we have an all out war on coal and nuclear in this country (and to a degree, natural gas because of the unfounded fear of "fracking"), which in turn leads to fewer power plants generating more power to meet an increasing demand.  After awhile what will happen when the power plants need to come off line for repairs?  You guessed it, rolling brown outs and blackouts.  America, welcome to your new third world status.  No matter how you look at it, there will be some level of impact to keep us driving in our cars, and living in homes with electricity:  it's the society we've built.  So, unless you want to live in an unlit/unheated hovel, and have a car that you can't drive because 1. the battery is dead and can't be recharged, or 2. there's no gasoline available, wake up and embrace the fact we need energy to power our lifestyle.  I for one am not willing to accept the line our current administration is feeding us.

AThinkingMan's picture

Your argument is somewhat flawed.  As an electrical engineer who specifically remembers his college thermodynamic classes, I can tell you that Electric Power Plants are one of the best man-made engines for converting fuels into energy.  This is especially so with natural gas & combined cycle plants (, which can have energy efficiencies in the 45-60% ranges.  Gasoline Internal Combustion Engines, on the other hand, have lower average efficiencies in the 18-20% range.  They cannot achieve the efficiency of the much larger power plants due to their small size & the lower compression ratios & temperatures they are limited to, for both safety & cost concerns.  

Simply put... a larger engine, due to economies of scale, will will almost always be more efficient at converting fuel into energy & producing less pollution due to their ability to reach higher temperatures & pressure that aid in complete combustion of a larger percentage of the fuel mixture, resulting in less partially burned reactants such as carbon monoxide & sulfur dioxide (CO & SO2).  In addition, the electric power grids are very efficient, with the amount of power transmitted nearly equal to the power input (e.g. typical efficiency is ~93-98%).  

Lastly, electric motors are also one of the most efficient conversions of energy into mechanical motion (Teslas achieve a 90% efficiency & there are prototype electric car motors from 2009 that reach 96% ).

So.... by producing power at the electric plants (which are more efficient at bulk power generation than an equivalent distribution of small gasoline combustion engines such as those found in conventional vehicles), then transporting that energy with minimal loss to your car (instead of by yet another inefficient (compared to the electric grid) diesel powered fuel tanker truck), & using an electric motor to convert the elctric power into mechanical power, you have greatly optimized the power chain somewhere close to 100%, compared to gasoline engines.

The real downside to electric cars is in the size, weight, expense, & capacity of the electric batteries to store this energy, although this is drastically improving.  But as far as your concerns about peak energy crisis & environmental pollutants, electrc cars still beat the oil industry's favored combustion engine hands down.  The Oil Companies have a cozy relationship with the Auto companies in mantaining the prevalence of combustion engines; otherwise the demand for oil would contract anywhere from 10-50% due to the significant increased efficiency & drastically reduce oil prices.

One last reference:

joego1's picture

Roads? Nothing but craters where I live.

rsnoble's picture

I'll tell u an unattended consequence of a green car.........this fuck electricity costs too much!!!!

patb's picture

it's fairly easy to collect this tax.  Have people when they renew their tags, submit

a mileage statement, and generate a tax statement.  


Most people are honest, and the occasional audit, will provide simple verification.  


Emissions checks done bi-annually can provide the mileage data.  


the other option is jack up the gas tax, and put a capitated tax on vehicles.  


or put in taxes on auto parts, or just raise the general revenue.

The Miser's picture

With tax and spenders like this, its time to by a scooter. 

rsnoble's picture

Thanks for explaining how things work around this shithole.

steve from virginia's picture


Just raise the gas tax to $50 per gallon and a host of problems are solved permanently.


Cry if you must but gas prices will get there anyway and when they do nobody will have a car.


Car = millionaire = death sentence for whatever is inside it. Live free or die motherfucker.


You cannot be free when you are a slave to the car. It's a fucking machine ... like a toaster ... who wants to live their lives inside a toaster?



Poor Grogman's picture

No cars = no work being done = no modern civilization = Darwinian devolution.

blindman's picture

you can not polish shit. if you build on a pile of shit
you waste your efforts. that is the problem, the money
system is a pile of shit. period. now, let us begin a serious

Falconsixone's picture

Make all "green" vehicles 4x4's , let the roads go, oil the roads with oil co. and gov. reps.

Sequitur's picture

 "It is my absolute intent to hold the line on taxes."

- John Corzine



Zap Powerz's picture

Every incentive exists for goverment to maintain poor fuel economy in cars and trucks.

Imagine the budget short falls in state and federal government if every car or truck got 100 mpg.

Dont believe the bullshit.  Government WANTS bad fuel economy becuase it makes more money.

Seasmoke's picture


One of these is not like the others..'s picture

Government GPS in your car? (Like the always available to the network one in many popular mobile phones since 1992?)

A jammer for use (selectively) against most bands of mobile phone, and/or GPS can be brought for about 70$ or considerably less if you find the right chinese electronics supplier...

Technically Jamming a gps installed in your car will be very, very easy at low cost, and quite hard to prove. IF people have balls enough to do it, when the time comes.

All the technological based assaults on your freedom have the basic flaw that the equipment to be used against you is far harder and more expensive to  supply than it is to destroy, or neutralise.

For example the susceptibilty of a 100,000$ drone when faced with a 100$ remote control model, will be fun to observe. Just look at yootoob for "rc edf jet" to see the potency such weapons (which are easily availlable to obtain) will have in the hands of the determined (and practiced) rebellious r/c pilot.

OK, to take em out at 5000 feet, the cost will rise to about 500$, but it's still going to be a no brainer, they cannot afford an attrition of drones by r/c models, or in USA of course firearms may play a useful part. It's going to be like state sponsored clay pidgeon shooting with a bit of variety and challenge to the targets...

So doing for Govt sponsored GPS will be as simple as someone knocking out the definitive cheap to make GPS jammer, (is very technically possible) and putting them where they will do the most good.

I am not sure how long a government building would function if a number of anonymous people were to deposit mobile phone jammers, in a few choice locations, with full batteries and switched ON.

Asymettrical warfare cuts BOTH WAYS... BITCHEZ!!

Just saying.

Herkimer Jerkimer's picture

I agree 100% with you, but you don't get it.


They will simply administer the charge to you and you will then have to prove you didn't drive the distance they say you did, with your "evidence" against theirs.


Good luck.




One of these is not like the others..'s picture

They will administer the charge, as they do nowadays with several "charges" and I will not even be able to read the letters as is my current policy.

Being houseless has it's advantages...

Sometimes I do give them a bit of joinder, knowing as I do full well that by the time that huge machine crawls into action I will be long gone. The trouble is people like the above poster think that "they" have ACTUAL supernatural powers. They don't. They have YOUR compliance, which frankly, I cannot understand, in the light of the dubious rewards and befits that you get in return.

IF a few hundred thousand people got the idea, that simply opting out of these new taxes and charges is doable with a bit of creative thought and courage, (it does take courage, I was scared to death when I started) and saying "come and get me you fuckers" whilst making a bit of an effort to make that task difficult, it will be enough to force a "systemwide reset", when a sizeable majority do it.

I'd remind you that the key to solving this problem is the fact that WE out number THEM. Instead of fighting and violent revolt, aganst the people, you need to break (or at least damage, or over work,) the system itself.

An easy to understand example is the recent UK victory against traffic cameras, we didn't attack the litttle people who install and service them, we focussed our rage against the actual instruments of oppression, and destroyed the expensive hardware with cheap burning tyres... Not only have they had to have a rethink about traffic cameras, but I'd imagine that rethink extends to any vulnerable sytem that they have in place. Some people in the UK have taken to extending the kiss of the angle grinder to CCTV now... I met a young man a few weeks ago who was keen to learn all about thermite, and another some months ago who is learning about EMP. I was heartened to see that their righteous anger about how things are, is tempered by this advanced understanding, that you need to be non-violent, and careful in the fight.

Revolution nowadays, is no longer about blowing stuff up and killing people it's about educating and empowering people.

And particulalry for those of you who are barely scaping by, consider your relationship with"the system". IS the system benevolently creating a society which nurtures and protects it's members whilst giving them the best chances foe personal developement, or does the system rob you at every turn whilst providing the absolute minimum of benefit, and maximum of extra difficultly?

Why not ask yourself do you understand ALL of the ACTUAL rules that you've been signed up to live by, or do you need to pay through the nose for someone else to help you "comply" and then still often find out that another rule is used against you? IS your police force better at protecting you, and your rights to a peaceful existence, or more likely to assault YOU if you question the authority that they actually serve, whilst staying well clear of danger if there is any serious trouble directed against the citizen? The aims and execution of REAL LIFE policing just isn't like in the movies. Teh polce are nowadyas IMPARTIAL. Thaey are neitehr against the criminal nor FOR you, they serve a different master and follow a different set of rules entirely. A set of rules that are too manifold and obscured for most people to access. What relevance do thay really have in YOUR life? Ask anyone who has been a repeat victim of crime, how much help the police really are when teh chips are down... Just like many facets of government now. It didn't used to be like this.

And if after ten seconds of honest consideration you find that it's the latter, then, why oh why do you co-operate IN ANY WAY with them? Why not make each interaction thay have with you as complicated and protracted as possible, you already know when they stop you randomly that they are just looking to extract a fine, so go and bone up on their procedures, powers and limitations, and look em in the eye next time you get stopped in your car or on the street, and make 'em work for it. The purpose is not to be offensive, or to take it out on the officer, the purpose is to drain the system of it's energy, because whilst that official is arguing the toss and answering MY questions, he isn't picking on someone weaker. Which costs teh system MONEY it's lifeblood. NEVER actually have the requested documents with you, (but do have them in order, back at home) even if it means you have to produce them somewhere later, just enjoy the fact that when you do eventually produce them, (especially because they will be in order , you just elected not to carry them), there will be a lot of work done by them for NO gain. The "offence" of non-production carries a minimal punishment, for which they have to do a shedload of paperwork, and I've never had 'em try and enforce it in twenty years of practice. Mind you, I'd ignore the letters nowadays anyway...

The only way my government talks to me is threateningly. I treat it with the respect it deserves. As it says in the bible, give unto caesar what belongs to caesar..

You don't fight fire with fire, you use water...

I would have to say, the only reason I haven't personally broken the system already, (It does annoy me, especially when they bomb little brown skinned people for specious reasons in my name, whilst ignoring popular protest) is because I don't have a complete and workable plan for it's replacement.

I do know that it starts with me however, finding out how to thrive in life whilst not limiting or taking from anyone else, except in fair and open transactions where both parties benefit.

I'd rather live within society productively, but I am not going to do it as a slave. OH NO.

Mercury's picture

OK, so instead of a GPS they base the tax on your odometer mileage which will be read once a year when you register your vehicle. And it's already illegal to tamper with your odometer. 

By then every house in America will have an electric and gas meter than can be monitored in real time at central comand (I'm being forced to get one this week).

It's probably only a matter of time before the only acceptable form of ID will be a smartphone type device which will be required to have GPS, biometric data and everything else (ID cards etc are too easily copied so it's for your own safety). And when they stop printing cash money you'll be forced to purchase everything electronically (all instantly auditable of course) or make due with barter.

Sweet land of liberty.

lostintheflood's picture

Asymettrical warfare cuts BOTH WAYS... BITCHEZ!!

Just saying.


i love you...

ebworthen's picture

No end to government stupidity.

Vermont will chase people out of the state (except for the sheep), and encourage people to keep older cars.

A black market of tampering with the devices will develop.

Time for the FED to just send direct payments to everyone to stay at home.

They can tax me at 60% of my income if they send me $500K a year.

Stuck on Zero's picture

Vermont won't lose people.  The middle class and rich will leave but millions of poor will flood in to take advantage of the government largesse.


SafelyGraze's picture

the solution is as simple as it is obvious: stop allowing state and local governments to collect taxes from gasoline (or sales or property or anything).

whatever the state does with those revenues can instead be done by departments and agencies in the executive branch through local and regional offices.

and done more efficiently, due to the economies of scale.