The federal government has decided to get rid of the ecoAUTO rebate program, only a year after it put the scheme in place. Hang on, let me open my wallet a bit wider. It cost money going in, and it'll undoubtedly cost money going out.
I'd like to say it was a good idea in theory, but it never really was. The plan was that the government kicked back rebates, ranging from $1,000 to $2,000, to people who bought brand-new vehicles that met specific fuel economy standards.
There were the usual problems that spring up when ideas are conceived in haste and implemented at leisure. Apparently, it took more than six months from the time the program got underway until the application forms were ready, and even when buyers could finally apply, there were long waits. According to an article by Carol Goar of the Toronto Star, only 30,000 of the 50,000 people who sent in their applications had received their money as of mid-February.
Much of my objection to the program was in the discrepancies. The Dodge Caliber, for example, doesn't meet the fuel economy requirements for passenger cars, and so there's no refund. But the similarly-sized Jeep Compass, which is mechanically identical and gets the same fuel mileage, is classified as an SUV, and so you get $1,000 back.
And there's a rebate for some flexible-fuel vehicles, which can run on E85, a fuel made of 85% grain-based ethanol and 15% petroleum gasoline. Sounds good, except that at last count, two gas stations in Ottawa appear to be the only ones from St. John's to Victoria that sell it. So you get $1,000 back because your vehicle could potentially save the planet, if you could only fill it with the right juice.
In her article, Goar also notes that while the government will no longer be handing you money back for buying a fuel sipper, it will still be collecting the "green levy" on gas guzzlers, which Goar says generates some $110 million per year. Hey, maybe the feds will spend that cash on improved public transit, bicycle lanes, incentives for car companies to build more fuel-efficient vehicles, and better urban planning to eliminate housing developments that make car ownership necessary in the first place. Yes, I think that's exactly what they'll do.