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Ed Driscoll

Two Posts in One!

January 14th, 2013 - 6:56 pm

Alexandria Yellow Cab driver Sultan Sakhi has been driving for 24 years. All Alexandria Yellow Cab drivers own their own vehicles and pay for their upkeep — and every month, Sakhi puts more than $1,000 worth of gas into his Toyota Camry.

He drives more than 200 miles a day, and services his car twice a month. To make up what he spends on his car — gas is by far his biggest expense — he takes on more hours every day.

“Instead of eight to nine hours, I drive 14 hours,” Sakhi said.

Sakhi’s financial burdens might be eased some if Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) is successful in changing how the state pays for transportation projects. McDonnell recently proposed eliminating Virginia’s gas tax of 17 cents per gallon in exchange for raising the state’s 5 percent sales tax to 5.8 percent. He would also assess an annual fee of $100 on alternatively fueled cars.

For Sakhi, there’s little downside to the proposal. He said the taxi business today is the worst it’s been in 20 years, because people are using taxis only when necessary and not for “leisure and luxury.”

“We deserve to get a break here,” he said.

“Va. governor’s proposal to eliminate gas taxes finds many fans among businesses” — Sunday’s Washington Post.

Europe’s motorists pay far higher gas taxes than American drivers do, a principal reason that its manufacturers (like Japan’s) are practiced experts at profitably building fuel-efficient vehicles — and that the average fuel efficiency of new cars on European roads in 2006 was 38 miles per gallon. In contrast, newly enacted CAFE fuel-efficiency rules would require U.S. cars to get 35 miles per gallon by 2020. The Congressional Budget Office estimated in 2004 that raising the gas tax by 46 cents per gallon would cut fuel consumption more quickly and cheaply than CAFE.

Congress should enact a steep, inflation-indexed hike in gas taxes, one big enough to alter consumer incentives and habits permanently. This would take back some of the de facto economic stimulus consumers have received from the recent drop in gas prices, and it would be a hard sell politically. But surely voters can understand that, even if Congress were to triple the tax to 55.2 cents, gas would still be cheaper, in real terms, than it was in 2005. The increase could be rebated through the income tax system.

Whenever anyone mentions the gas tax, politicians are quick to warn their constituents about the costs; rarely do they mention the benefits. A higher gas tax would buy valuable public goods: national security; a cleaner environment; and safer, less congested streets. No matter what, Americans will have to pay for all of that. Why not do it the simple, straightforward way?

“Start Making Sense: America must end its denial about gas taxes,” the Washington Post,  Monday, December 8, 2008.

(And right around the same time, the New York Times and NBC concurred with the Post on the topic. It’s almost like they exchanged talking points to form an “non-official campaign” for Barack Obama or something.)

Related: “We have met the 1%, and he is us,” Willis Eschenbach writes at Watts Up With That:

I find it both reprehensible and incomprehensible when those of us who are in the 1% of the global 1%, like President Obama and Secretary Chu, blithely talk of doubling the price of gasoline and sending the cost of electricity skyrocketing as though there were no negative results from that, as though it wouldn’t cause widespread suffering, as though cheap energy weren’t the best friend of the poor. What Chu and Obama propose are crazy plans, they are ivory-tower schemes of people who are totally out of touch with the realities faced by the poor of the world, whether inside the US or out.

When I was a kid, everyone was quite clear that inexpensive energy was the key to a fairly boundless future. Our schoolbooks told of the Tennessee Valley project, and how it lit up the whole region, to everyone’s benefit. In particular, electricity was seen, and rightly so, as the savior of the rural poor. How did we lose that? Just how and when did deliberately making energy more and more expensive become a good thing?

I don’t buy that line of talk, not for one minute. Expensive energy is not a good thing for anyone, wealthy or poor. And in particular, more expensive energy condemns the poor to lives of increased misery and privation.

Read the whole thing — although don’t expect such thinking to penetrate the neo-Malthusians at the Post or the White House.

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