Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Gas prices...

The SF Chronicle has a piece on raising the gas tax. The logic being people need to be encouraged to drive more fuel efficient vehicles and cut back on their driving. The net effect being that we as a society would use less fuel decreasing the amount of greenhouse gases we emit and decreasing the amount of pollution in the air. The only problem is that is a regressive tax. Those with the largest disposable incomes will feel the effects the least. The working class would feel the pinch the greatest as they need to drive to work and don't have large disposable incomes.

Mass transit in the US just isn't at the level to allow a large segment of our population to use alternative means to get to work. That infrastructure needs to be built. The problem though is that most transit projects are paid for by gas taxes. My solution? Increase the "guzzler tax" and include SUVs & light trucks. The cost of gas guzzlers on society is shared by everyone while those who buy such vehicles get the benefits. Shift these costs from the society as a whole onto those who are getting the most benefit. The fuel standards for the tax should change over time to put more and more pressure to have fuel efficient cars on the market. Tax the revenues that the auto companies make off of these fuel inefficient cars. Put this revenue into improving mass transit options & credits for buying super-efficient cars. States should also adopt a "guzzler tax" when it comes to DMV/registration fees. Gas guzzlers should cost more to own. Put this money also into improving mass transit. End all subsidies to the oil companies, once again putting the money instead into improving mass transit and in addition funding research for alternative technologies.

Increasing the gas tax then should be phased in to encourage people to use the options available to them. The later phase in once there are options for people to use, will reduce the regressive nature of the tax (though not completely). The benefits are there for us to gain from reducing the amount of fuel burned by our automobiles (Societal Costs of Gasoline; updated for Climate Change) the question is who do we ask to carry the burden?