The Congress is close to getting together on legislation to bring the fuel economy standards for cars and trucks to 35 mpg by 2020. We are still waiting for the details to be announced.

One thing that’s pretty much assured is that SUVs and pickups will have some loopholes to protect the people who need and buy working trucks and the companies (the Big Three) who build them. The details of this should be interesting.

But let me just say what I am looking for in this bill. And if not’s in there, we’ll know that they aren’t really serious about reducing the impact of our driving on the environment.

-There needs to be long-term carrots and sticks for the U.S. consumer that rewards people for buying the most fuel efficient vehicles. That means tax incentives for hybrids, DIESELS, plug-ins, and any gasoline vehicles that achieve an average fuel economy above 35 mpg. Long term, real, carrots will establish unquestionable demand for higher fuel economy vehicles even if oil prices recede. No more ceilings or sunsets on tax incentives to buy more fuel efficient, clean-running vehicles.

-The stick needs to be a tax on pickups and SUVs bought by people who do not have a licensed, demonstrated need for their businesses for such vehicles. So, a contractor or rancher buys the truck with no penalty by way of getting a proper commercial license and registration. A family of three with a father who is a lawyer and a mother who is a stay-at-home Mom or if she is a Realtor, or a single person, for example, will have to pay a tax if they want to own a Ford Expedition, Hummer H2 Hummer H3 or some such. That tax money will go into a fund that helps offset the tax break to the family who buys the plug-in or the hybrid.

The first thing that comes to mind with regard to my stick approach is the number of people who will start “paper” businesses to avoid paying the tax on the Yukon or H2 they don’t need. My answer to that is that lawmaker and activist led public campaign to turn citizens into rat patrols. What do I mean? In Europe, say Germany, if you turn your car on in your driveway to run the defroster to get the ice off your windshield while you sip your coffee inside, expect a knock on your door from a neighbor. No kidding. My American friends who have lived in Germany tell me it’s true.

If you know your neighbor or co-worker is scamming in order to drive a gas guzzler under the new Kiley rule, there should be a website where you can report them to the public.

Europeans who have accepted higher petrol prices, smaller vehicles and clean diesel, have also accepted the idea that they are all in the battle against pollution together. It is a mindset created by government, schools, businesses and activist groups, Moms, etc. That’s what we need in the U.S.—-increased social pressure, fueled and supported by govermnent and the media, to do the right thing.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal. LEARN MORE