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America Needs Higher Gas Tax?

ChevyChaseDC

Cyburbian
Messages
190
Points
7
Though I disagree with Krauthammer on just about everything else, I think this is a bullseye.

Tax and Drill

By Charles Krauthammer
Friday, May 21, 2004; Page A25



In the mid-1970s, the twilight of America's oil innocence, the average new American car was a monster weighing 4,000 pounds. The oil shocks induced belated rationality into American oil habits. By 1981 the average car was down to 3,202 pounds.



By the mid-'80s, rational consumer reaction to high prices -- home insulation, fuel-efficient appliances and lighter cars -- had actually solved the energy crisis. We had OPEC on the run. In July 1986 oil plunged to $7 a barrel.

It is now $41 a barrel. We had a golden moment, and we let it pass. The way to lock in our gains then would have been to artificially raise the price of gasoline with a tax that would depress consumption, maintain consumer demand for fuel efficiency and, most important, direct much of the pump price into the U.S. economy (via the U.S. Treasury) rather than having it shipped to Saudi Arabia, Russia and other sundry, less than friendly places.

Nothing, of course, was done. It was morning in America, and no politician ever got elected running on higher gasoline taxes. Americans got used to low oil prices again. Consumers once again acted rationally: The average car is now back up to 4,000 pounds.

Pump prices have once again soared. Surprise.

This has occasioned a festival of cynicism. Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe blames higher prices on an administration that is "in the pocket of big oil." John Kerry blames Bush for not pressuring the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. Kerry promises to "stand up to those OPEC nations and say, 'Enough.' " Oh, that'll do it.

Kerry has another plan, too. He wants us to stop filling the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. This is not just a bad idea -- the SPR is there for some catastrophic event, say a terrorist insurgency in Saudi Arabia that interrupts supply and could wreck the U.S. economy. It is also a transparent pander. Kerry's suggestion would have a negligible effect on gasoline prices.

This finger-pointing is utter nonsense. Why are gas prices up? Well -- surprise again -- demand is up and supply is down.

First, China's enormous economic growth is raising demand -- and prices -- for all kinds of commodities from steel to cement to oil. Until the late 1990s, China was a net energy exporter. Its newly developed appetites will now be putting pressure on energy prices for decades.

Second, the low oil prices of the '80s and '90s gave us an epidemic of gas-guzzling tanks on wheels. Americans have every right to shop for groceries in vehicles built for hunting elephants, but then they should stop whining about the inevitable oil price crunch that follows. Especially when they drive their SUVs to environmental rallies to prohibit drilling in the largest untapped oilfield in North America because of an exquisite sensitivity for the mating habits of Arctic caribou.

There is no free lunch. As demand has risen, U.S. oil production has declined -- down 25 percent since 1985. Americans have every right to an eco-sensitivity that prevents drilling offshore, on federal lands or in the Arctic. But they should not be surprised when they end up dependent on -- and paying through the nose to -- Saudi Arabia, Russia and Iraq.

The fact is that for two decades neither party has distinguished itself on the issue of oil blackmail and price vulnerability. There is an obvious solution: Tax and drill. Democrats won't allow drilling, and neither party supports taxing.

The idea is for the government -- through a tax -- to establish a new floor for gasoline, say $3 a gallon. If the world price were to rise above $3, the tax would be zero. What we need is anything that will act as a brake on consumption. Since America consumes 45 percent of the world's gasoline, a significant reduction here would bring down the world price.

But the key is to then keep the tax. Indeed, let it increase to capture all of a price reduction. Consumers still pay $3, but the Saudis keep getting lower and lower world prices. The U.S. economy keeps the rest in the form of taxes -- which should immediately be cycled back to consumers by a corresponding cut in, say, payroll or income taxes.

Keep gasoline prices high and American consumers will once again start demanding and buying lighter and more fuel-efficient cars -- exactly as they did in the late '70s and early '80s. Prices will continue to drop, and the U.S. economy will capture the difference.

It's a perfectly virtuous circle. It requires only a modicum of political courage. Which is why it does not stand a chance of happening.

letters@charleskrauthammer.com


© 2004 The Washington Post Company
 

Repo Man

Cyburbian
Messages
2,549
Points
25
I think that the idea of a gas tax is a bad one. Higher gas tax ends up hurting poor people. Some guy making 200,000 a year really won't feel the impact of paying more for gas, but someone making minimum wage will. Gas is now around 2.20 a gallon here and while it sucks to pay 30 bucks to fill up my tank it really hasn't impacted my budget much, but if I was poor and struggling to make ends meet it would definitly hurt.

I think the solution is more legislation to increase fuel efficiency. The technology is there (look at the Prius and the Honda Insight or Civic Hybrid), we just need legislators with the courage to stand up to the motor vehicle and oil industry.
 

jordanb

Cyburbian
Messages
3,232
Points
25
Well, there are a ton of taxes (like sales taxes) that are more regressive than gas taxes. While I agree that it's going to hurt the bottom of the car-owning spectrum most, it won't affect people too poor to own a car at all. And if gas taxes are dumped into public transit, then it could end up helping them and everyone else greatly.

And it will discurage the SUV trend.
 

michaelskis

Cyburbian
Messages
20,174
Points
51
I agree with jordanb. I think that it is a good idea. (mostly from a planning point of view) Maybe it will cause more communities will start to look at the possibilities of improved mass transit such as light rail, and electric bus, along with alternative transportation such as bikes. This could also spark a growth in the use of trains from community to community to provide reduced cost of shipping goods to keep prices low. With new technology, electricity can do so much more will half the needed energy. Other countries in the world have much higher gas prices, and they still have the same problem with low to moderate-income people. If we put the adjusting tax on gas, the taxes could be spun back around for education and assistance programs for the poor, improved funding for mass transit, as well as lowering federal taxes. Another side of this would be improved competition between gas stations. If everyone had the same price for regular unleaded, they would start to focus on other things such as customer service, improved appearances, and more location consideration.
 

tsc

Cyburbian
Messages
1,905
Points
23
there is actually talk of easing the tax of gas in NY...which is much higher than neighboring states..... gas is about 25 cents cheaper per gallon in Jersey... especially compared to where I live. <overpriced suburb>
 

Floridays

Cyburbian
Messages
769
Points
21
jordanb said:
And it will discurage the SUV trend.
Hear hear! There's been lots of stuff on the news re: declining sales of Hummers and other SUVs. Maybe "road rage" will taper off a bit, too.
 

BKM

Cyburbian
Messages
6,463
Points
29
Floridays said:
Hear hear! There's been lots of stuff on the news re: declining sales of Hummers and other SUVs. Maybe "road rage" will taper off a bit, too.
Of course the only problem with this is that American companies are completely unable to design an attractive, high quality passenger car, and the only thing that has saved their bacon is ridiculous monster trucks (sold to country music tunes drawling about Amurica! and patriotism). So, more thousands of jobs lost.

Of course, Honda employs thousands in Ohio, and Chrysler is owned by the Germans, so, what is an "American" car company??
 

ChevyChaseDC

Cyburbian
Messages
190
Points
7
Repo Man said:
I think that the idea of a gas tax is a bad one. Higher gas tax ends up hurting poor people. Some guy making 200,000 a year really won't feel the impact of paying more for gas, but someone making minimum wage will.
People making minimum wage cannot afford to own a car. And households with incomes over $200,000 make up a small portion of the populace. Truth is, a gasoline tax would siginificantly alter Americans' driving habits, from paying closer attention to fuel economy in purchasing a new vehicle, and making fewer unnecessary vehicle trips.

I think the solution is more legislation to increase fuel efficiency. The technology is there (look at the Prius and the Honda Insight or Civic Hybrid), we just need legislators with the courage to stand up to the motor vehicle and oil industry.
Hybrid technology provides dubious benefits in fuel economy. The numbers we see on stickers are the EPA's estimates of city/highway fuel economy. EPA's methods are severely outdated. Instead of testing each model in everyday driving situations, EPA estimates fuel economy by measuring emissions. With Ultra Low Emissions Vehicles ('ULEV') and 'Super-Ultra-Low' (SULEV) vehicles such as the Prius, gas mileage estimates become wildly inflated. Automotive periodicals, including Motor Trend, Car and Driver, and Automobile have consistently acheived fuel economy numbers far lower than EPA estimates for all three hybrid models currently available (Toyota Prius, Honda Civic Hybrid, Honda Insight). Numerous non-hybrid models, which offer far superior acceleration, braking and handling performance, acheive close to the same fuel economy as hybrids, including conventional Honda Civics, Toyota Corollas and Echos, Scions, and the VW Jetta/Golf TDI, which is a diesel.

The real answer to vastly improved fuel economy in vehicles, without sacrificing performance, is diesel. In Europe, where heavy taxation keeps gasoline prices around $5 per gallon, over half of all new cars sold are diesels. New emissions technology means that modern diesel engined cars pollute no more than their gasoline counterparts. Unfortunately, a combination of factors has kept diesels from catching on in the U.S. First, the trucking industry has until recently been able to sucessfully keep cheaper and dirtier diesel fuel on the market in the U.S. (incidentally artificially lowering the cost of long-haul trucking versus arch-rival freight rail). Europe's diesel fuel is far cleaner. The other factor is environmentalists have effectively halted the sale of diesel cars due to their increased particulate emissions compared to gasoline (a difference which would all but disappear with mandated cleaner fuel and modern engineering).

In the end, we should not force industry into producing products people do not want to buy. In fact, we already are; Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) means some pretty strange things are happening. Attention Chrysler PT Cruiser owners: Did you know you're driving a "light truck?" That's right, it's designed to bring DaimlerChrylser's light truck fleet CAFE up, to make up for all the Grand Cherokees and Durangos that people love to buy, and can afford to own because gas has been so cheap.

What people want, the free market, consumer choice, whatever you want to call it, is dictated in large part by government policy. Take that, Jeffersonians. Since the government barely taxes gasoline in order to make it cheap, that means average people can afford, and therefore often want, gas guzzlers. If the price rises, they'll want it less. Supply and demand. I own a fuel efficient car and take transit to work, but I'm what you would call 'socially conscious' and do these things even though I could afford a bigger vehicle and to drive everywhere. The incentive to conserve, rather than the incentive to guzzle (as now exists with the giant SUV tax loophole) has to be there. As the price of gasoline rises, we're already hearing about declining sales of large SUV's. People will want more fuel-efficient cars, and the industry will provide more and better products without kicking and screaming.
 

gct13

Cyburbian
Messages
51
Points
4
People love complaining about $2+ gas, and yet it's going to make absolutely no difference for this summer's motoring season. I'm all for jacked up prices.
 

Cardinal

Cyburbian
Messages
10,080
Points
34
A higher gas tax is in no way a solution to our energy problem. We tend to focus on the price of gas because that is what most of us see on a daily basis. What we need to realize is that it is the cost of petroleum that is the problem. Petroleum is used in countless products, from plastics to chemicals to pharmaceuticals to fabrics and you name it, in addition to meeting our energy needs for transpoortation, heating and cooling, and electricity. To truly reach a solution we need to address the whole problem, not merely one solution.

When it comes to transportation, the solution is in encouraging more efficient transportation of goods, which may meen more multi-modal use of trucks and trains. We should be investing in public transit in urban areas, and intercity transportation for rural communities. The higher taxes (sales taxes and registration fees) should be placed on the vehicles rather than on gas. Buy a less efficient vehicle and pay a higher tax.

Buildings can be made more energy efficient. Even many new ones are very wasteful. Older buildings have not been adequately remodeled to install insulation or energy-efficient appliances. Look at the wasteful use of electricty in our own homes. We are all guilty of it.

Many items made from petroleum products could be made from alternative materials. Some of these alternatives are already available. Others are still in a research stage. Twenty years ago, for instance, milkweed was being investigated as a source for natural oils. Can you imagine what it wold mean to farmers to have options for more cash crops, and how happy this might make the monarch butterfly at the same time? As a nation, we need to step forward to fund targeted research into more sustainable sources of raw materials to replace petroleum.

Unfortunately, transit, energy efficiency, and scientific research have never been subjects of much interest to our government, and particularly this last one.
 

Repo Man

Cyburbian
Messages
2,549
Points
25
ChevyChaseDC said:
People making minimum wage cannot afford to own a car. And households with incomes over $200,000 make up a small portion of the populace.
The thing is that many people who make minimum wage do have cars because mass transit is not availabe and in many cases is not feasible. Most Americans live in areas that do not have the density to support mass transit.

Increased gas taxes will also result in higher prices for everything that requires gasoline for transporting including groceries...again the increases will hurt poor people the most.

In Wisconsin we pay almost 50 cents on every gallon in taxes (31.5 state, 18.4 federal). When I fill up my car, which takes 15 gallons I am paying $7.50 in gas taxes....the government just needs to use that money more wisely. I would support using the existing gas tax to fund more mass transit and bicycle facilities and less road construction but I won't support an increase in the gas tax.
 

BKM

Cyburbian
Messages
6,463
Points
29
Taxing fuel will not impact driving and gasoline consumption nearly as much as a change in cultural norms (and, ablarc is partly right, land use patterns-which does inlcude changes to planning laws, the development industry, and banking/financing rules.)

As long as we are dominated by the agrarian myth ("I am a country person even though I work in an office building twenty miles away in a city."), we will continue to "waste" gasoline. New Yorkers use, I've read, 1/3 of the energy as suburbanites on a daily basis.

I don't see the change in culture occurring easily or quickly.
 

ChevyChaseDC

Cyburbian
Messages
190
Points
7
Cardinal said:
A higher gas tax is in no way a solution to our energy problem.
Wrong! A higher gas tax will ensure that people begin to pay the true cost of having to drive everywhere.

Otherwise, I agree with you completely.

Repo Man, increases in consumer prices would be in the short-term. Business and industry would too figure out ways to use less fuel. A few already are - both FedEx and UPS are rapidly replacing their old delivery van fleet with Mercedes/Dodge/Freightliner Sprinters - Euro-looking vans with efficient diesel engines that acheive a whopping 30 mpg.

BKM, $3.00/gallon in the United States would most certainly bring about change in cultural norms! As I said before, the marketplace is built upon policymaking. Having to pay more for the very thing that fuels our appetite for big vehicles, freeways, parking lots, gated communities, and big-box stores would cause all of these things to become far less attractive.

At the risk of sounding Kunstleresque, we cannot continue to wallow in the filthy muck of cheap gasoline. Taxation is an essential part of providing people with an incentive to conserve.
 

Gedunker

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11,487
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41
We would do better to end the highway subsidies and leave the gas tax where it is. Plow the highway monies into A) public transit and B) energy efficiency systems for older homes and businesses. Any money left over could be set aside for development of sustainable alternate fuel sources.
 

Cardinal

Cyburbian
Messages
10,080
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34
Gedunker said:
We would do better to end the highway subsidies and leave the gas tax where it is. Plow the highway monies into A) public transit and B) energy efficiency systems for older homes and businesses. Any money left over could be set aside for development of sustainable alternate fuel sources.
I'll repeat myself: A higher gas tax is not the answer. If you are looking for parity in the relationship between what motorists pay and what highways cost, Gedunker has the answer. It isn't to raise the tax on gas, it is to curtail development of highways. Traffic will continue to expand to the limits of construction. If a road is held to two or four lanes, there eventually comes a time when the drivers will elect to not use it -- in other words, not take a trip or live closer to work or take a train instead, etc. Raising the gas tax will have too many negative effects like hurtng the poor the most, or raising the cost of goods.
 

jordanb

Cyburbian
Messages
3,232
Points
25
Congestion lays a heavy tax upon the economy of a nation, not to mention the envoromental effects. If you are seriously proposing it as a "solution" to the traffic problem... that's like trying to cure obesity with a corset.
 

Cardinal

Cyburbian
Messages
10,080
Points
34
jordanb said:
Congestion lays a heavy tax upon the economy of a nation, not to mention the envoromental effects. If you are seriously proposing it as a "solution" to the traffic problem... that's like trying to cure obesity with a corset.
Not the whole solution, but part of it. Use congestion to force people into making sounder choices -- where to live and work, how to commute to work, and whether or not to drive instead of taking another means of transit, or go at all. (Yes, your kids actually can walk somewhere!) What is the alternative? More, and wider roads? That has been the solution for a half century, and has only resulted in more problems.
 

Gedunker

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Cardinal said:
Not the whole solution, but part of it. Use congestion to force people into making sounder choices -- where to live and work, how to commute to work, and whether or not to drive instead of taking another means of transit, or go at all. (Yes, your kids actually can walk somewhere!) What is the alternative? More, and wider roads? That has been the solution for a half century, and has only resulted in more problems.
Cardinal is absolutely right!

If there is no place to PARK, customers will find someplace else to shop. As long as fuel prices allow us to get back in our cars and DRIVE somewhere else, that is exactly what we will do. When we, or external factors, make driving miles o the next destination unrealistic, we will begin to demand that services and goods be within walking distance of the customer base. And that will be a good thing, IMO.
 

ChevyChaseDC

Cyburbian
Messages
190
Points
7
Gedunker said:
We would do better to end the highway subsidies and leave the gas tax where it is. Plow the highway monies into A) public transit and B) energy efficiency systems for older homes and businesses. Any money left over could be set aside for development of sustainable alternate fuel sources.

As long as gas remains inexpensive, people's will continue to demand an infrastructure based around the car, including more highways. As long as driving everywhere remains cheap and convenient, roads and sprawl are going to be in continuous demand. Few if any elected officials will risk their jobs by advocating more transit and energy efficiency, at the expense of peoples' primary means of transportation. Jimmy Carter tried and failed. Again, the incentive to conserve has to be there, otherwise most folks couldn't care less and will just demand more roads and sprawl. For every transit improvement, mixed-use infill develoment, or new-urbanist community, there are still many times more tract houses and strip malls and the like being built. Obviously the urban planning community recognizes sprawl's negative effects. A lot of people just don't see it that way; not as long as cheap gasoline makes it easy to drive everywhere all the time.
 
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ChevyChaseDC

Cyburbian
Messages
190
Points
7
Cardinal said:
I'll repeat myself: A higher gas tax is not the answer. If you are looking for parity in the relationship between what motorists pay and what highways cost, Gedunker has the answer. It isn't to raise the tax on gas, it is to curtail development of highways. Traffic will continue to expand to the limits of construction. If a road is held to two or four lanes, there eventually comes a time when the drivers will elect to not use it -- in other words, not take a trip or live closer to work or take a train instead, etc. Raising the gas tax will have too many negative effects like hurtng the poor the most, or raising the cost of goods.
I agree with you that curtailing development of highways is essential.

It will only become politically feasible when average people stop moving to sprawling hinterlands and demanding new roads. People will only stop demanding new roads when it becomes more expensive to drive everywhere. Remember, elected officials tend to have the final say, not planners.

In otherwise-liberal Montgomery County, Maryland, traffic on the Capital Beltway and other roads has reached its tipping point. Are some folks getting out of their cars and into transit? Yes. However, there is also widespread support for building a new east-west expressway, (The Inter-County Connector, or "ICC"), to help ease peoples' suburb-to-suburb commute.

A gradual but steady increase in gas tax will change peoples' behaviors and preferences.
 

Wulf9

Member
Messages
923
Points
22
Streets are part of the public transportation system.

Streets are the only part of the public transportation system where the user doesn't pay by the trip. (Buses, trains, planes all charge for each trip taken. Car trips seem "free" because costs are not associated with the trip.)

So our public transportation system labors under the comparison of "free" automobile trips vs. pay per use trips by all other modes.

Add to that, the fact that gas taxes have not been raised to match inflation and that the doubling of gas mileage over the past 30 years reduces the gas cost per mile (and means that a dollar of gas tax must pay for twice as much wear and tear).

It would make sense to raise gas taxes based on indexed costs including both inflation and increased gas mileage.

I have always supported the idea of free transit. In essence, using gas taxes to pay willing riders to stay off the road.
 

ChevyChaseDC

Cyburbian
Messages
190
Points
7
Wulf9 said:
Streets are part of the public transportation system.

Streets are the only part of the public transportation system where the user doesn't pay by the trip. (Buses, trains, planes all charge for each trip taken. Car trips seem "free" because costs are not associated with the trip.)

So our public transportation system labors under the comparison of "free" automobile trips vs. pay per use trips by all other modes.
I agree. The cost of driving, especially within a metropolis, needs to increase. Highway tolls and congestion charging are effective in that regard. But the cost of gasoline needs to increase too so that there is less incentive for people to move to father-out new sprawl where there are no tolls or congestion charges.

Add to that, the fact that gas taxes have not been raised to match inflation and that the doubling of gas mileage over the past 30 years reduces the gas cost per mile (and means that a dollar of gas tax must pay for twice as much wear and tear).

It would make sense to raise gas taxes based on indexed costs including both inflation and increased gas mileage.
Gas mileage has gone up for passenger cars over the past 30 years. Unfortunately, cheap gas has meant the explosion in sales of light trucks (Pickups, SUV's, Vans, "Crossovers", etc.) which are heavier and use far more fuel than cars. Their numbers have increased so much that the average weight of all new vehicles sold in the U.S. is over 4000 lbs, numbers similar to the 1970's average (for perspective, a Honda Accord weighs about 3000 lbs.), and they now comprise nearly half of the U.S. passenger vehicle fleet (light trucks already account for over 50% of all non-commercial vehicle sales).
 

Wulf9

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923
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22
ChevyChaseDC said:
Gas mileage has gone up for passenger cars over the past 30 years. Unfortunately, cheap gas has meant the explosion in sales of light trucks (Pickups, SUV's, Vans, "Crossovers", etc.) which are heavier and use far more fuel than cars. Their numbers have increased so much that the average weight of all new vehicles sold in the U.S. is over 4000 lbs, numbers similar to the 1970's average (for perspective, a Honda Accord weighs about 3000 lbs.), and they now comprise nearly half of the U.S. passenger vehicle fleet (light trucks already account for over 50% of all non-commercial vehicle sales).
It's true that average mileage is going down. It's a disappointing trend. But average economy is still about twice what it was 30 years ago.

Of course, the downside of decreasing gas mileage is higher consumption without increased supply. In a market economy, that means higher prices. Higher prices have the same effect as a tax.

The reason a tax is preferable to letting the market forces act is that it is the proper role of government to look at public welfare. It is in the extreme public interest to be more energy efficient, so that the existing energy supplies last much longer. Increased gas taxes is a good way to do that.

In the absence of government policy, we will have the current "low" prices for a while longer, then they will skyrocket - to the detriment of the future economy. So far, it has been the American way to waste now and deliver a lower standard of living to our children and grandchildren.
 

Dharmster

Cyburbian
Messages
440
Points
13
Tax and Drill

Tax and Drill

The idea is for the government -- through a tax -- to establish a new floor for gasoline, say $3 a gallon. If the world price were to rise above $3, the tax would be zero. What we need is anything that will act as a brake on consumption. Since America consumes 45 percent of the world's gasoline, a significant reduction here would bring down the world price.

But the key is to then keep the tax. Indeed, let it increase to capture all of a price reduction. Consumers still pay $3, but the Saudis keep getting lower and lower world prices. The U.S. economy keeps the rest in the form of taxes -- which should immediately be cycled back to consumers by a corresponding cut in, say, payroll or income taxes.

Keep gasoline prices high and American consumers will once again start demanding and buying lighter and more fuel-efficient cars -- exactly as they did in the late '70s and early '80s. Prices will continue to drop, and the U.S. economy will capture the difference.

It's a perfectly virtuous circle. It requires only a modicum of political courage. Which is why it does not stand a chance of happening.
 

boilerplater

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Messages
916
Points
21
Crisis du jour

I never thought I'd live long enough to see a Republican ideologue calling for a tax on Gasoline. When I first read Krauthammer's editorial last week, I was left with the feeling like he might as well have ripped a hole in the space-time continuum, it was so surprising. Grumpy old curmudgeons like Krauthammer aren't supposed to posit progressive ideas. WTF?

The new National Geographic's cover story is "THE END OF CHEAP OIL?", articles linked here talk of the need for greater gas taxes. I guess its the topic du jour. All the "I told you sos" are finally getting some press.

I've been saying the same thing for nearly 15 years to blank, confused expressions.
 

BKM

Cyburbian
Messages
6,463
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29
jordanb said:
Congestion lays a heavy tax upon the economy of a nation, not to mention the envoromental effects. If you are seriously proposing it as a "solution" to the traffic problem... that's like trying to cure obesity with a corset.
Every city in history has experienced congestion. Its an inevitable result of urban development. I read somewhere recently that it would cost $100 billion to termporarily "solve" the freeway jams in Los Angeles alone. We can't afford to "solve" temporarily congestion, so your point is irrelevant.
 

jordanb

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3,232
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25
BKM said:
Every city in history has experienced congestion. Its an inevitable result of urban development. I read somewhere recently that it would cost $100 billion to termporarily "solve" the freeway jams in Los Angeles alone. We can't afford to "solve" temporarily congestion, so your point is irrelevant.
If the marginal cost of driving is virtually nothing, then you're right, it will be impossible to solve congestion, because there's no incentive to conserve road capacity. But if we price roads based on supply, ether with a gas tax or a congestion tax, and if we limit the number of POVs allowed into the system by restricting access to parking, we can reduce congestion and auto-dependency at the same time.

As to if congestion is inevitable.. that depends. Of course congestion existed before the automobile, but not nearly on the same scale as now. Mumford noted that Washington DC was designed to be congestion free, and was sucessful in being so until the invention of the private automobile. Before the automobile, congestion was the result of not enough transportation capacity to serve the buisness in the area. When the Chicago L was being built, the only place in Chicago that had congestion enough to justify elevating the trains was downtown, but the city was concerned about safety and thus forced the railroads to elevate most of the system. As late as 1952, when the CTA had the choice to abandon the North Avenue trolley line or the Humboldt Park branch of the L, they chose to abandon the L because they figured that the L was higher maintenence, it didn't go as far out, and it was inconceivable at the time that traffic congestion would ever affect surface transit on North Avenue. Of course, now North has horrid traffic, congestion clogs Chicago's streets for miles beyond, and everyone thinks that abandoning the Humboldt Park branch was a horribly stupid idea.

The increase in congestion since the proliferation of the automobile in Chicago, like the amout of land consumed, has been totally out of proportion with rise in population. Congestion is now caused because people take advantage of the negligable marginal cost of driving to use their cars until all road capacity is consumed (and then some). That results in "induced traffic" where increases in capacity are taken advantage of by people to drive their cars more.

Now it may be easy for someone living on the fringes of the exurbs to say "so let the city stay congested;" but for those of us who have to put up with gridlocked traffic on our streets every day, spewing ozone into the air we breath, disrupting our transit, endangering pedestrians, blocking our emergency vehicles, and inhibiting the flow of goods essential to the proper function of our metropolis, that is not an acceptable solution.
 

Gedunker

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jordanb said:
<snip>
Now it may be easy for someone living on the fringes of the exurbs to say "so let the city stay congested;" but for those of us who have to put up with gridlocked traffic on our streets every day, spewing ozone into the air we breath, disrupting our transit, endangering pedestrians, blocking our emergency vehicles, and inhibiting the flow of goods essential to the proper function of our metropolis, that is not an acceptable solution.
End mortgage interest deductions for homeowners that live outside corporate limits of US cities, together with the end of the highway subsidy and let's see where that gets us (aside from the howling of various special interests).
 

jresta

Cyburbian
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1,474
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23
NJ has a "fix-it-first" law (but watchdogs still have to threaten lawsuits to get the DOT to comply) that i think should be national. Even Newt Gingrich said "the Interstate system is finished, let's move on."

*fix-it-first

*No new freeways/interstates

*No federal money to widen any freeway to more than 4 lanes urban/3 lanes suburban.

* Interstate means "between states" not "from one side of town to the other". There should be no federal money for on/off ramps connecting to roads that are not numbered state or federal highway (with exceptions for rural areas/mountainous areas/existing park&rides) and an incentive program for urban areas to tear down entrance/exit ramps to local streets. If i drive 95 here i have an exit option every 12 blocks. The incentive is then to use 95 rather than local streets. There should be an exit for PA 611, I-76, I-676, NJ 90 and PA 73. ramps for Allegheny Ave., Girard Ave., and Washington Ave. should all come down.

*No federal money for widening any arterials on the federal or state systems over 3 lanes.

*4 penny federal gas tax hike. 1 penny goes to speeding up bridge repair. 2 cents goes (capital projects only) for Interstate 2 - the national high-speed passenger and freight rail network. and 1 penny goes to local transit capital projects. Get the numbers back up to 80/20

*4 penny state gas tax hike . 1 penny goes to speeding up bridge and highway maintenance. 2 cents goes to transit capital budgets. 1 penny goes to operations.
 

Miles Ignatius

Cyburbian
Messages
368
Points
12
Consume Now, Pay Later

Wulf9 said:
In the absence of government policy, we will have the current "low" prices for a while longer, then they will skyrocket - to the detriment of the future economy. So far, it has been the American way to waste now and deliver a lower standard of living to our children and grandchildren.
....well stated and I second the motion.

It's been a vacuum of leadership as far as I'm concerned. After the oil shocks of the 70's, I was in favor of a gas tax to fund transit, alternative fuel research...you name it...anything that would give us a leg up when the supply equation tipped to "low."
 
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