• Dec 27, 2008
People have always had something of an aversion to hard truths. Most Americans say they want their country to get off foreign oil or help the environment, but when it comes to the bottom line, they want cheap fuel. And when the prices on gas pumps start to dip, consumer interest in smaller more efficient vehicles tends to go out the window. Understandably, drivers everywhere tend to make vehicle purchasing decisions in large part based on fuel prices.

Ward's Auto World columnist Drew Winters notes that executives like Bob Lutz have long advocated that fossil fuel prices need to increase in order to make more efficient vehicles appeal to consumers. But with U.S. consumers' almost instinctual avoidance of taxation, it has been difficult for politicians to consider such measures. Instead, it would appear that most constituents want government to mandate both more fuel efficient cars (through mechanisms like CAFE) and cheap gas without impacting the cost of automobiles themselves.

Winters paraphrases The End of Oil author Paul Roberts, noting that "every major fuel shift in history – from wood to coal to oil – was driven primarily by market forces, specifically by competitive advantages of the new fuel over the old." Thus, part of the solution may simply to make the fossil fuels more expensive relative to other energy sources.

Unfortunately, Winters surmises, it appears that nobody can handle this truth.

[Source: Ward's Auto World | Photo: GoodGreentips.com]


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 72 Comments
      • 6 Years Ago
      I want to take as many natural resources with me before I die as I can.......I am joking. WE have the cheapest energy of the world, cheapest food, cheapest housing, cheapest taxes, but the thirstiest and most CO2 producer of the world. I have several exotic cars but I am changing for the world and more taxes on gas could help.
      • 6 Years Ago
      "Thus, part of the solution may simply [be] to make the fossil fuels more expensive relative to other energy sources."

      That's precisely backwards. The solution will come when other energy sources are cheaper than fossil fuels.
      • 6 Years Ago
      What a stupid article.

      "every major fuel shift in history – from wood to coal to oil – was driven primarily by market forces, specifically by competitive advantages of the new fuel over the old."

      Taxes are NOT market forces. It's the govt. rearing its ugly, bloated, inefficient ways, trying to strip people of their money so they can dump it in pork-barrel programs, misguided initiatives, measures catering to their respective constituents.

      For some reason, the person makes the retarded connection between market forces and taxes. Bumping up taxes is NOT a market force. It's the exact opposite--it's trying to create an artificial demand for alternate fuels by making traditional fossil fuels cost-prohibitive. The Ward columnist needs to move to some socialist country where petrol tax is exorbitantly expensive, like France. They all use diesel, thanks to the insane taxes levied there. Diesel isn't taxed as heavily, because if it were then truck businesses using diesel would've gone ballistic. Hence diesel over petrol is favored there. And I don't see them with flying electric cars there, either.
      • 6 Years Ago
      How about instead of punishing everyone tax the people that are using an engine size over 2 or 3 litres and the people under it are taxed exempt.
      • 6 Years Ago
      People are concerned with "what's best for them" because there is no one else on their side right now. The government doesn't have the best interests of the citizens in mind...it sides with whoever has the most money (I'm not even going to debate this for those who feel like poking at it). We are a capitalist society and, unfortunately, government has decided to jump on that bandwagon and fend for itself while it alone decides how much money you pay (usually more and more for less and less).
      • 6 Years Ago
      I agree whole-heartedly. Consumers want manufacturers to make more fuel efficients cars, but aren't willing to pay for it, i.e., raise gasoline taxes.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Iridium's comments have got to be the most ridiculously conservative-republican bullshit i have ever read in any comments section ever. you're dreaming if you think foodstamps will buy you steak every night and that wellfare and medicaid are wasteful shams. Let me guess, Bush supporter?

      "The mark of any civilised society is the way it treats its poor and disadvantaged

      Take any large group of people and someone's kind hand or gesture of support, and you will find someone lining up to abuse it. Stopping the help doesn't fix the situation, and worse yet, people who genuinely need that assistance are getting the shaft. Do you actually KNOW how difficult it is to get admitted to these programs? they conduct one of the most invasive application forms I've ever seen, that could only be topped by a full body cavity search. If anything, people who legitimately work in those shit-paying Mc-Jobs would actually be better off quitting and getting into the programs because if you make ANYTHING, the assistance becomes impossible to receive, which highlights the problem. It's actually de-motivating able bodied people from working it's so difficult to get. What we need is to not eliminate these programs, but revamp the way assistance is authorized.

      While i agree that the gov't is excessively misusing our tax dollars, i think that we should cut back unnecessary defense spending. I'm not saying get rid of military or don't invest in technology updates or cut troops expense funding, I'm saying lets stop policing the world unless the other country is willing to pay for our help. we could reallocate hundreds of billions of dollars into infrastructure improvements (which actually helps homeland defense) like power grid upgrades and safer roads. Anyone remember the Northeast blackout? or the California rolling black/brownouts? Imagine if 25% of the nation went to Plug-In hybrids/electrics in the next 5 years, and those grids stayed the same. We'd have a HELL of a lot worse problem than some mexican stealing your social security or $6/gallon fuel. I like a minimum gas price, but i think we need to remove that price floor for commercial enterprises like trucking, rail, and air transport companies. Combine this with a 3-tier tax system for income (the wealthiest 1% of the nation has 90% of the nation's wealth, yes their contribution to the system SHOULD be larger, as they a) can afford it, and b) are already voluntarily paying larger amounts to interest groups and big government to see their will done. wouldn't it be nice if just slightly more than 1% of the wealthiest of us had a voice for a change?
      • 6 Years Ago
      I think most of us here can recognise that it is in no way ideal to have to pay four dollars a gallon for gas, but in no way is it ideal to have to live under the consequences of excess gasoline consumption. These consequences, such as pollution (whether or not you agree with the prospect of climate change), dependence on unstable foriegn countries for our livelihoods and a huge trade deficit. These sorts of harms are recognised by basic economic theory as externalities, because the harm comes not only to those who purchase the gas, but to everyone. In these cases, even right wing economics recognises that it is the role of the government to limit or 'internalise' these harms, by passing the cost on to the consumer. In this case that may have to be through an additional tax.

      As many people have stated, changes in fuel sources have primarily occured because of advantages inherint in the new source of power. However, the purpose of this tax would not only be to try and encourage people to move onto different sources of fuel, but also to encourage people to be as fuel efficient as possible. In many cases, people buy excessively fuel thirsty vehicles that they do not need to pick up their kids or drive to work. This discourages that behavior, as well as excessive driving when it is unnecessary, and encourages things like carpooling. Even people who need large pickups for their business may be encouraged to buy a V6 diesel (with just as much torque) instead of a V8. Sure, its not as fun, and I like driving a powerful car as much as anyone else, but at least its more efficient. Furthermore, taxes gained can be used to try and make new technologies a more viable alternative.

      Finally, in terms of the economy, it is possible to offset this cost to businesses by providing reward incentives for being more efficient than average in their specific area, or by decreasing other company taxes for those most effected. Either way, we can create a situation where businesses are finally given real incentives in terms of fewer costs to be more efficient, without hugely harming them. Yes, while this may impact consumer spending, if it decreases the budget deficit so that government spending can increas, rebuilding salaries and employment, this sort of tax may be an effective way to reroute money.

      As everyone else here, I wish gas were unlimited and didn't pollute, but sometime we have to live with bad consequences.
      • 6 Years Ago
      • 6 Years Ago
      While I totally agree with the mechanics of how putting a tax on the now cheaper price of oil would keep the pressure on research for alternative energy, I *don't* think right now is the best time to exercise this option.

      Look.... the mid-west is getting figuratively b-ttf--ed economically, and putting a tax back on fuel to get it back to $4.00+ a gallon is going to do nothing but spark anarchy and chaos among the already un-(and under) employed in the rust belt.

      I at this point the government needs more of a carrot approach than a stick.... for now.

      -GH
      • 6 Years Ago
      We already have enough taxes on gas- 18 cents a gallon federal and states add on another tax (NY and Ca over 60 cents a gallon). This is a big difference from China and India where they subsidise gas and the people pay below market value.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Everyone who truly understands the situation is in favor of large gasoline taxes, unfortunately when the rubber hits the road people are far more concerned with what's best for them, not what's best for us. This is one example where the will of the people is keeping us from making the right decision.
        • 6 Years Ago
        I want cheap gas, big cars, and low taxes. There are more of me than there are of you. We vote. We win. Period. What's right, wrong or indifferent doesn't matter.
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