• Oct 1st 2008 at 11:17AM
  • 14
The downward trend in driving miles continued into July of this year for the ninth straight month. In what is usually one of the heaviest driving months of the year as families head out on summer road trips, $4 gasoline and the general economic malaise pushed miles down by 3.6 percent, a smaller drop than the five percent reduction in June. This is consistent with the gasoline consumption figures that were also released by the state of California for June and the second quarter of the year. Gasoline consumption was down 7.5 percent for June and 4.8 percent over the three month period. That amounts to a reduction of 191 million gallons for the period. While all of this is good from the perspective of both emissions and energy use, it does pose another problem that needs to be addressed. Funding of road infrastructure comes largely from fuel taxes and reduced mileage and fuel use means less money. New methods of funding must be found because as we move into the era of electrified vehicles, this phenomenon will accelerate. Transportation secretary Mary Peters has proposed a shift away from fuel taxes to tolls, but it's not clear if this is the best approach. What do you think?
[Sources: Reuters, BussinessWire]


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  • 14 Comments
      • 6 Years Ago
      If the roads are used less, spend less on maintenance --- Oh yeah, spending less is not an option for government agencies.

      Like any new legislation for generating revenue, the new toll would include lots of new pork. Plus, it would make it easier to track the common citizens as they move about.

      No, thanks.

      Increase fuel tax if they must. We can use all the incentive we can to move away from oil.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Does anyone actually understand why the existing fuel tax was levied on a per unit basis? Was there any logic to it? I never have understood why that would be a better model even for the past. It seems in all cases we would have been better off with a % of cost with a floor of "no less than xx per gallon" to protect against the case of fuel getting wildly cheap.

      I wish they taxed my house they way they tax gasoline. As it stands now if the value of my house doubles (as it has in the last 7 years or so) the government gets a windfall whether they need the money or not. Imagine the cash pile they'd be sitting on if they had a % of retail cost model. Prices up 100% in the last several years and a tiny % of reduction in amount sold.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Yeah, but how much less fuel are we using? Back in June fuel consumption was down by something like 1%. We using less fuel, but were also getting a lot less done with the fuel were using.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I don't think less cars are being used. The problem is that we are now going to see more electric cars on the road. As more efficient cars come out, and more EV's, the cars will driven more and more as it now becomes more economical. I still think that a higher gas tax is in order. Then, if more money is needed, tax automobile products. Wiper blades, carpets, tires, grease, etc. These would have a higher tax so as to garnish the money needed for road maintenance. The less you use your car, the less you need car parts, the less you pay towards road maintenance. That is a fair taxing system.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Sure, you can forgo getting your oil changed for a longer period of time, but eventually you get it. People that can afford oil changed will get them more often. People who can afford them won't. But then it's their loss if the car breaks down, which means they would have to fix it, and then there's more tax on that. Get it. No one is immune, unless you don't drive your car. It's a FAIR tax system.
        As far as truckers paying more for the damage they cause, I don't buy it. Sure their rigs cause more damage, but if they were to pay more, the true price of our products would go up and then we'd be paying for it anyway. It's a catch 22.
        • 6 Years Ago
        So what's the economic incentive then... if it becomes much more costly to keep your car in good repair, people will put off repairs as long as possible. Could you go another season without buying new wiper blades? Can you make it to 6000 miles between oil changes? I really don't think that's the kind of incentive we want drivers to face.

        Tax gas and diesel, and tax electricity if EVs get to be even 1% of the vehicle fleet. (That would be 2.5 million EVs)

        I will also point out (again) that damage to roadways is proportional to the cube of the axle weight, so light cars (and most EVs will be pretty light compared to SUVs) cause very little distruction. So if my 1000kg Civic does 1 unit of damage, a 3000kg Suburban does 27 units of damage, and a 20,000kg semi (on 5 axles) does 512 units of damage. Trucks should really pay for almost all road maintenance.

        If you don't believe me, go find a paved sidewalk or bike-path and see how many pot-holes you can find.
        • 6 Years Ago
        I _think_ I get it:

        If you tax vehicle upkeep, then the short term incentive is
        a) To drive less, AND
        b) To drive a less well maintained car

        and the longer term incentive is a) and b) and
        c) Own a car that requires very little maintenance.

        Whereas if you tax gas & diesel, the short term incentive is
        a) Drive less

        and the longer term incentive is a) and
        d) Own a car that get good mileage.

        I just don't think that b) is an outcome that benefits society. That was the point I was trying to make.

        About heavy trucks paying their "fair share" of road maintenance: You are absolutely correct that in the short term we would simply pay more for goods and less for gas. In the long term energy efficient transportation (probably trains) would win out over long-haul trucking in many cases. Again, I see that as a socially desirable outcome, as it decreases our country's petroleum use.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Seems like the right time to levee higher taxes on gas. The oil co.'s will fight it to nth degree but at least there is popular support against them at the moment. The roads in Europe are far superior to the ones here and of course their gas taxes are much more as well.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Europe moves much more freight by barge and rail than we do in the states, Passenger trains are also much more handy/useful.

        The destruction of our infrastructure is closely linked to the shift from rail cargo transport to semis which have the roadway heavily subsidized by the government.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Is the loss of tax revenue really a problem, though? If fewer cars are using the roads then they should be suffering less abuse and needing less investment.
        • 6 Years Ago
        It's not that simple. First, federal fuel taxes are used to construct new roads, bridges etc. Those cost the same even if traffic is slightly down for a while.

        Second, wear and tear on roads is proportional to the fourth power of axle load - modified by factors including road design, construction quality and especially, winter frost. Much of the damage is done by commercial vehicles, but maintenance costs are shouldered by passenger car owners as well. Why? Because the haulage industry has lobbyists and Joe Average doesn't.

        Third, electric cars, PHEVs and E-REVs will all help to diversify the primary energy sources used in the transportation sector. Less oil, more coal/natural gas/nuclear/renewables. As long as their share of the total fleet is very small, their - typically wealthy - owners will be let off the hook since they are the are volunteering to be guinea pigs for the new technology. However, at some point well into the future, they should expect higher vehicle license fees. These will ensure their contribution to road construction and maintenance more closely resembles their ability to pay.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I dont understand?
      • 6 Years Ago
      Even if fewer cars are on the road, the majority of damage done to the roads is from heavy vehicles (buses, semis) and freeze/thaw cycles. In the calculation of Equivalent Single Axle Loads (ESALs), I am pretty sure cars are basically ignored.
      • 6 Years Ago
      HOT lanes with variable pricing would make our freeways more efficient in moving people. But we should also keep the gasoline tax in order to encourage fuel efficiency.
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