Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Tom Friedman's Case for a Gas Tax

So we passed an energy bill, says NYT columnist Tom Friedman - so what.

"Sorry to be so cynical, but an energy bill that doesn't enjoin our auto companies to sharply improve their mileage standards is just not serious," he writes in a recent essay. (registration required)

If the rising competition for energy resources with India and China isn't enough, here's another reason to look for ways to cut consumption and reduce VMT by rethinking our land-use and energy policies. I'll paste a few graphs here:

"..we are in a war. It is a war against open societies mounted by Islamo-fascists, who are nurtured by mosques, charities and madrasas preaching an intolerant brand of Islam and financed by medieval regimes sustained by our oil purchases.
Yes, we are financing both sides in the war on terrorism: our soldiers and the fascist terrorists. George Bush's failure, on the morning after 9/11, to call on Americans to accept a gasoline tax to curb our oil imports was one of the greatest wasted opportunities in U.S. history."

"We need a strategic approach to energy. We need to redesign work so more people work at home instead of driving in; we need to reconfigure our cars and mass transit; we need a broader definition of what we think of as fuel. And we need a tax policy that both entices, and compels, U.S. firms to be innovative with green energy solutions. This is going to be a huge global industry - as China and India become high-impact consumers - and we should lead it."

"Many technologies that could make a difference are already here - from hybrid engines to ethanol. All that is needed is a gasoline tax of $2 a gallon to get consumers and Detroit to change their behavior and adopt them."


At 10:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Laying aside the arguments over transportation funding, I agree 100 pecent that we are funding both sides in this war. My son is on active duty in Iraq now. I've resisted the temptation to go into a parking lot and put flyers on big fat SUV windshields reading, "A marine died in Iraq so you could drive this oil-sucking monstrosity." Just like we fed the Japanese the steel for the bombs at Pearl Harbor (a myth I'm sure, but a powerful one), we are paying for our own destruction again. I just love the rednecks in their giant Fords playing patriotic music. They are the best friends these Islamic murderers have in the world.

The tax should start at $1 a gallon and equivalent on other energy uses, and rise over several years, with the money then redistributed in ways to ease the pain, perhaps lower income and corporate taxes and grants for alternate energy. We should be drilling everywhere for our own sources. The effect on the Saudis and the Iranians would be magical. And if they didn't come around and shut down the terrorists (which they could do in a matter of months), the devastation on their own economy would be delightful to behold.

At 8:15 AM, Blogger Jim Bacon said...

Tom Friedman makes a good point. He touches among many of the things we need to do: redesigning work so more people work at home, increasing fuel efficiency of our cars, using more mass transit, using more "green" energy. But he omits the most important thing of all that we could do: reforming our scattered, low-density pattern of development. Virginians are driving 70 percent more miles per year (roughly 17,000) today than they were 25 years ago. That translates into a roughly 70 percent increase demand for oil.

The defenders of the status quo refuse to confront the social costs of our auto-centric way of life. Those include air pollution and the funding of hostile, fundamentalist regimes abroad. (And let's not forget that whack job Chavez in Venezuela who is using high oil prices to paper over the devastating effects of his socialist policies and his subsidy of anti-Americanism throughout Latin America!)

I like Anonymous' idea of taxing gasoline not only to fund transportation but to fund other state government functions (as long as such a tax were revenue neutral, not a back-door tax increase). Indeed, why not re-engineer our entire tax code around the concept of a carbon tax that encompassed not only gasoline but oil, gas and electricity? By taxing energy consumption and use the revenue to cut income, corporate and sales taxes. Taxing energy consumption would mean that we're indirectly taxing the mullahs and sheikhs instead of ourselves.

At 12:19 PM, Blogger subpatre said...

Anonymous 11:05 said, "...on active duty in Iraq now", and then,
[Arabia and Iran] "....shut down the terrorists (which they could do in a matter of months)"

At minimum, one of those statements isn't true. Your pick.

At 12:21 PM, Blogger subpatre said...

Fuzzy thinking confuses petro-taxes with progress. We do need to change our energy consumption and sources; no argument there. The solution is to remove obstacles in the way of new energy; not add obstacles (and penalize the county) with old-energy taxes.

Keep interim supplies intact
1) Ensure the sources: In progress
2) Ensure the transportation & routes: Done
3) Ensure processing capability: Starting

Encourage new renewable energy
1) Wind: Done
2) Solar: Done
3) Ethanol & biofuel: Done
4) Wood: Politically abandoned.
5) Waste: Politically abandoned.
6) Geothermal: No interest.

Minimize unecessary use
1) Energy per person: Mostly done
2) Increased efficiencies: In progress
3) Move critical uses to domestic supply: Done.

Increase existing large-scale domestic energy
1) Coal: Increasing.
2) Natural gas: Politically abandoned.
3) Domestic petroleum: Politically abandoned.
4) Atomic generators: Politically abandoned.
5) Hydroelectric: Politically abandoned.

The hypocrisy of taxing petroleum is too blatant to describe.

At 12:03 AM, Blogger Ray Hyde said...


Nice Going.


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