One of our current presidential hopefuls has recently made a campaign promise to lower the price of gas to $2.50 a gallon. Really? Now don’t get me wrong, I would love to see gas prices at a much lower level that they currently are; maybe.
The problem with this, as I see it, is that it would pretty much require the government to subsidize the price of gas for the American public. You think our deficit is high now, I can’t imagine what would happen if the government started paying me to burn gas.
A second problem with this plan is that every time the price of gas goes down, the incentive to produce and procure more fuel efficient cars goes down, as does the incentive to fund mass transit and alternative forms of transportation. Artificially fixing the price of gas at a low level would not only lead to higher deficit spending, it would also further choke our roadways and increase the pollution caused by Privately Owned Vehicles (POV).
I would like to offer up an alternative suggestion; one going in the opposite direction. Let the government add an excise to the price of gas, starting at $1.00 per gallon and upping it a dollar per gallon each year until it hits $5.00. All of this excise should be put into a pot that could only be used for funding transportation solutions. This would have the following benefits:
- It would reduce the congestion of our nation’s roads, forcing people to drive less and rely on alternatives to a POV.
- It would reduce our dependence on foreign sources of oil.
- It would reduce pollution
- It would allow for greater investment in mass transit, making it more convenient and dependable to use.
- It would allow for greater research in alternative forms of transportation that did not depend on fossil fuels.
- It would allow for greater funding for bicycle and pedestrian paths.
- It could provide a slight decrease in federal spending with all transportation costs removed from the general budget.
This cost, if applied to all refined gas and diesel would be ruinous to our economy if applied across the board so it should be limited to the sale of fuel to POV’s and not applied to mass transit, the trucking industry, emergency vehicles or other non-POV uses.
There is also the danger that the federal government might see this as another source of revenue to spend on non-transportation issues. There would have to be strict guidelines imposed on this money to ensure that it is used for its intended purposes. Similar to those for Social Security – Not!
Raising the cost of fuel to such a high level would lead to a dramatic cultural shift in the US. Can you imagine a world where you would not just jump into the car at a moments notice for a trivial errand? Can you imagine the health benefits of a society that begins to walk again, or ride bikes? Can you imagine high speed rail lines connecting our cities rather than congested airports?
As far as I can see, the biggest obstacle to this plan is that no politician would support it. Despite the long term advantages it would offer, support for anything even remotely similar to it would kill any chance for reelection for anyone supporting it. We have such a love affair with our cars that any attempt to divorce us from them is viewed as a threat to our God given rights and way of life. But isn’t it time we started looking to the future and the mess we are leaving our kids?