Monday, March 26, 2007

Belated Canadian action on hybrid cars

We missed the recent Canadian federal budget as we were sunning ourselves in Mexico, but it seems to have been almost unanimously characterised as a vote-buying budget in preparation for a possible spring election ("A budget so liberal the Grits should sue" according to the Globe's John Ibbotson), pushed through by the Bloc Quebecois (40% of the new provincial transfer payments announced are going to Quebec, and Gilles Duceppe freely admits that he couldn't leave that on the table whether he agrees with the budget measures or not).
However, the budget contained at least a little welcome (and long-overdue) action to encourage hybrid and other fuel efficient cars, and to punish gas guzzlers.
Purchases of new cars that use less than 6.5 litres of gas for every 100 kilometres of combined city and highway driving (and minivans or SUVs under 8.3 l/100km) will be eligible for a $1,000 rebate, which will increase by $500 for each half-litre reduction, to a maximum of $2,000. So, the more efficient and smaller hybrids like Toyota's Prius and the Honda's Civic Hybrid receive a $2,000 rebate. This is in addition to the previously existing Ontario provincial rebate of $2,000 for hybrids.
Conversely, vehicles that consume more than 13 l/100km attract a penalty of at least $1,000, rising in $1,000 steps for every additional litre, to a maximum of $4,000 for cars and SUVs that use more than 16 l/km. For reasons that escape me, pickup trucks are exempt from these provisions.
There was a bit of fuss over a last-minute change to include a couple of gas-guzzling GM cars (GM stands to lose out big-time from these new rules, and the Japanese manufacturers stand to benefit most), on the grounds that technically they can run on E85 ethylene fuel, even though there are NO E85 outlets in Canada, so the cars would be forced to run on regular fuel anyway...
The only other good news in the budget from an environmental standpoint (albeit a rather watered-down measure) is the gradual phasing out of the accelerated capital cost allowance for Alberta's oil sands development.
Frankly, this is all something of a sop to cover up the fact that the Tory government is still stalling ondoing anything concrete towards Canada's Kyoto obligations.
Still, on balance, positive baby steps, I suppose.

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