the Government Really Concerned About 'Gas Mileage'?
There is a
big problem with high-mileage cars from the point-of-view
of the government.
80 MPG car which could be built right now, easily, with existing
technology. (Several current European models are already pretty
close to the 80 MPG bar.)
Such a car
could cut the average persons fuel costs by two-thirds
in effect, putting things back the way they were circa 1986, when
gasoline still cost about $1 per gallon. It would do a great deal
to ease the economic pressure bearing down on the average person.
But if tens of millions of Americans were suddenly using two-thirds
less fuel, theyd also be paying two-thirds less in motor fuels
have to be a conspiracy nut to wonder what effect contemplation
of this possibility has had on government policy.
the most benevolent, public spirited intentions, the situation is
a debacle in the making. If revenue derived from motor fuels taxes
declined by 20-30 percent, there would be that much less revenue
available to maintain existing roads and build new ones.
Meanwhile, the population is galloping upward more people,
more cars. Where will the money come from to keep pace?
There is always
the possibility of making up the shortfall some other way
but the beauty of the motor fuels tax, historically, is that its
a largely hidden tax. The average motorist is not made to
confront the bill in the same way that hes made to confront,
say, the sales tax on the food he buys after gassing up. Because
unlike the food on which pays a tax in addition to the cost of the
food itself, the motor fuels tax is discreetly folded into the cost
of the fuel. One does not pay $2.40 a gallon plus 80 cents
per gallon in taxes. One just pays the $3.20 per gallon. Thus, big
oil takes most of the heat rather than big government.
taxes are regressive and confiscatory. Other than sin taxes
on cigarettes, its hard to come up with a product in
the case of gas, a necessary staple that is taxed
at a rate equivalent to about 30 percent (or more) of the cost of
the actual item itself. And unlike cigarettes, most of us have no
choice about buying gas. Its an ingenious trap that government
has set for us: First, use taxes (in the form of tax incentives
as well as the use of taxes as such) to fund artificial, unnatural
growth in particular, the artificial, unnatural growth of
highways and other roads. Highways and roads that would not have
been built until real demand as opposed to government stimulated
demand made an economic case for their construction. The
artificially induced roads encourage sprawl more government
subsidized growth of homes and retail areas that,
in turn, encourage more driving, more consumption, which in turn
funds more artificial growth.
And the cycle
the rest of the article
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columnist and author of Automotive
Atrocities and Road Hogs (2011). Visit his
© 2012 Eric Peters
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