Ray, of Tom and Ray on NPR’s Car Talk, has got a message that needs to be heard, and so I’m going to summarize it here: The USA needs a 50 cent gasoline tax.
Why? First of all, our government needs the extra tax to pay for energy conservation research.
Won’t that deal a hard economic blow to taxpayers? No, not really. First of all, taxpayers can easily find ways to use less gasoline, as they proved this summer, when gasoline was at about $4.50 per gallon – far above the price where a national gas tax would place us today. They can plan their shopping instead of hopping back and forth across town. They can carpool. They can use mass transit. They can… gasp… drive the speed limit.
In the long run, taxpayers will lose money if serious energy conservation research is not conducted. Energy efficiency improvements allow people to use more energy for less cost, after all. Eventually, that 50 cent per gallon gas tax would be paid right back into the pockets of taxpayers through this means alone.
But, that’s not the only way the gas tax would help the economy. That extra government spending on energy conservation research would fund jobs – and good jobs too. The people in those jobs would have money to spend in other ways, helping to keep the economy afloat.
Then there’s the savings that would come through reduced pollution. Make energy more efficient, and there’s less air and water pollution. Air and water pollution are deadly. Air pollution, for example, is known to be a significant contributor to heart and lung disease, among other ailments. That’s not just bad for the people who get sick and die. It’s expensive to the economy.
Besides that, a 50 cent gas tax would reduce consumption, just as high gas prices did this summer. And what happens when consumption goes down? Bingo – gasoline prices go down as well. Thus, a 50 cent gas tax would not actually increase gasoline prices at the pump by 50 cents per gallon. The price increase would be something less.
When gasoline consumption goes down, dependence on foreign oil goes down, and our flexibility in foreign policy increases. Global warming also slows down, and all the very costly problems already associated with global warming slow down in their growth as well.
American citizens have more money.
We gain more efficient energy.
The world is a little less toxic.
What’s not to like?
Thanks, Ray, for saying what needed to be said.