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Rebates, incentives for 'green' cars encourage buyers, frustrate tax activists

March 25, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
A plan to reduce smog caused by California's busy freeways is working: More people than ever are taking advantage of rebates and buying clean-energy cars. But many taxpayers aren't happy about it.

The state's $43-million rebate program for plug-in hybrids and other zero-emission vehicles is nearly empty, so the California Air Resources Board and the Energy Commission pumped $10.5 million more into the account, enabling more residents to take advantage of getting up to $2,500 back.

Combined with the federal rebate program of up to $7,500, consumers can save as much as $10,000 off the sticker price, plus they qualify for the carpool lanes with a special permit.

The state says California is still having trouble meeting clean-air standards.

"The only way that we can keep our air clean and fight smog and fight climate change is to introduce more and more of these zero-emission vehicles," said Stanley Young, spokesman for the California Air Resources Board.

Even though California is only 10 percent of the total car market, it now accounts for roughly 40 percent of all plug-in electric vehicles.

Ted Costa heads the People's Advocate, a taxpayer watchdog group. He says at a time when the state needs to pay for more pressing things, average residents who can't afford a green car for themselves shouldn't have to subsidize one for who those who probably can afford one on their own.

"We really need money in this state. We need money to fix roads, we need money for higher education, we need money for student loans. We need money for just about everything there is," said Costa.

Robert Feldman sells only Leafs at Maita Nissan. He says rebates are a good way to get car buyers to try new technology when clean-air goals are so ambitious.

"It's just the long way to go and it's the best way to get there," said Feldman. "And it just takes a little bit of extra effort in the beginning of anything that's worthwhile."

Governor Brown signed an executive order a year ago setting the goal of 1.5 million zero-emission vehicles on California roads by 2025. The state is on the verge of hitting 20,000.


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