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Don't hate the man who thinks the Toyota Prius is a geekmobile he "wouldn't be caught dead in." You see, the CEO of General Motors, Daniel Akerson, actually wants more people to buy Priuses.
Okay, that's a stretch, but Akerson did tell the Detroit News that he thinks the federal gas tax should be increased as much as a dollar a gallon in order to convince car buyers to buy more efficient vehicles. He'd of course, prefer you buy a Cruze or a Volt, but if gas shoots to $5 a gallon, you can bet those won't be the only models in demand. Akerson says that higher pump prices will be better for the environment than forcing automakers like GM to build cars with really high MPG ratings. Akerson told the News:

You know what I'd rather have them do - this will make my Republican friends puke - as gas is going to go down here now, we ought to just slap a 50-cent or a dollar tax on a gallon of gas. People will start buying more Cruzes and they will start buying less Suburbans.

With this, Akerson joins Bill Ford and Alan Mullaly in calling for a higher gas tax. Now, if only we could get some powerful politicians to say the same thing.

[Source: Detroit News via AOL Autos]


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 76 Comments
      • 4 Years Ago
      Make it revenue neutral by reducing the (regressive) payroll tax. Or, turn the tax into a direct consumer rebate for the purchase of a more efficient new car. I imagine Mr. Akerson would like that! In the meantime, we accumulated a lot of things you can do to save gas and money on our site, Earthgarage.com.
        Spec
        • 4 Years Ago
        Yes! Such revenue neutral gas tax would be excellent. Feebates.
        lne937s
        • 4 Years Ago
        or make payroll tax flat across the board, also applying it to commodity capital gains. We need more revenue if we ever hope to balance the budget. Taxing a primarily imported product that creates pollution is better than taxing labor.
      Ford Future
      • 4 Years Ago
      Do you Limbaugh Trolls, scan the internet for mention of King Stupid, and then come running to defend the stupid stuff he says? Are you Paid to do that?
      • 4 Years Ago
      I bet if you sold Cruzes, Priuses and the like for less than Suburbans people would start buying more of them, too. Why does the "solution" always seem to cost us more?
        Julius
        • 4 Years Ago
        Last I checked, Cruzes and Priuses DO cost less than Suburbans (MSRP: $41,730)...
      letstakeawalk
      • 4 Years Ago
      Anyone else surprised that the U.S. Treasury guy's solution is to raise taxes?
      Chris M
      • 4 Years Ago
      I still think the best solution would be a fuel tax that can be adjusted at regular intervals in response to the average price of fuel. That way, the tax could be increased when prices fall, to encourage continued conservation, and reduced when prices rise, to reduce the impact on the economy.
        Spec
        • 4 Years Ago
        @Chris M
        I agree . . . but they should only cut the tax in a real emergency to prevent economic disaster. Slow steady increases in price is the objective. A fast price spike is really bad because the economy adjust really slowly and sharp changes cause big problems.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @Chris M
        The disadvantage of such a scheme is that it negates the price signal, and so encourages consumption when supplies are tight.
        Chris M
        • 4 Years Ago
        @Chris M
        David, if the adjustment was exactly the same as the price change, you might have a point, but it need not be - it could be adjusted as a percentage of the price change rather than equal to the price change. Also, there is a limit to how low the price could be adjusted downward if the price rise is excessive. Since the tax would be based on the average price and would be the same for all stations, there would still be variations in pricing among different stations, and there would still be price competition.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Pfffffffff! Like any GM execs give a crap about the environment! Someone needs to ask this CEO why GM ended the EV1 in favor of producing more Hummers? Obviously they want more Volt sales b/c of higher gas prices.
        letstakeawalk
        • 4 Years Ago
        Daniel Akerson was running Nextel when the EV1 project was happening; he was in a completely different industry.
        Danaon
        • 4 Years Ago
        Because they could make a profit selling Hummers, while they couldn't make a profit (or anywhere NEAR one) selling EV1s. Seriously, that's a pretty stupid question.
      Smith Jim
      • 4 Years Ago
      CAFE standards alone when gas prices are relatively low are not a good solution. When gas prices are low, consumers choose larger gas hogs and it makes it extremely difficult for automakers to meet the CAFE requirements. So they play economic tricks to meet CAFE like selling small, fuel efficient cars at artificially low prices to increase the sales of these cars. In the years when gasoline prices were low, most automotive companies were selling small, fuel efficient cars at a loss in order to meet CAFE standards. Here's another thing that makes it difficult to meet CAFE standards. If a full line manufacturer raises the fuel efficiency of all it's cars by 20% but gas prices remain low some people who would have purchased a small car will now purchase a mid size car. Former mid size buyers will purchase a full size car. In Europe and Japan the auto companies have no problem meeting higher CAFE standards because gasoline prices are much higher and people WANT to buy fuel efficient cars. Did you ever wonder why Honda and Toyota were the first companies to manufacture hybrid cars? If you think they did it our of respect for the environment I think you are naive. Honda and Toyota produced the first hybrid because gasoline is twice as expensive in Japan. Right now gasoline is about $7 per gallon. If you believe significantly higher CAFE standards are a good idea please consider the following article. http://www.grist.org/article/2010-12-15-if-efficiency-hasnt-cut-energy-use-then-what By the way, I do not advocate a huge instantaneous spike in carbon taxes. I'm not an economist but I would start with a small carbon tax of 20 cents per gallon and an equivalent taxes on coal and natural gas. 100% of that tax would go for clean energy research, subsidizing clean energy such as wind farms and solar farms, and subsidizing electric cars and other clean energy technologies. Then each year the tax would be increased by 20 cents per gallon until greenhouse gas emissions (including things like methane leakage) reach safe levels.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @Smith Jim
        Raising taxes is inherently more efficient than mandates. The reason is that if you mandate more mileage, people drive cars which get better mpg, and so have more money in their pockets in their petrol budget and so are less careful about the amount they drive. Take a look at 'Jevon's paradox' on Wiki. The ideal tax is simple, so administration does not cost much, and should be used to discourage things you don't want, and encourage those you do. So from the POV of economics the tax should be offset against reductions in employment taxes ( I don't know in detail how they work in the US ) so making it cheaper to employ people. Or if you wanted to focus on energy, a tax credit for weatherisation would work, and that is also labour intensive. The problem is always that Government tends to eat up any taxes rather than spend them productively. Perhaps uncharitably it occurs that in the US context it may be a lot easier to get mandates stopped than to increase petrol taxes, so the motivation for this argument from GM may be to present a faux alternative to fuel economy regulations, with the objective of stopping them whilst not in practise increasing petrol tax. However, assuming that individuals within organisations always act in accordance with as assumed overall viewpoint is not really valid, just as talk of a particular nation's motivation to go to war has limited validity when the motivations at the individual level are various, and we anthropomorphise impersonal organisations by speaking of their 'motivation'.
          skierpage
          • 4 Years Ago
          Jevons paradox applies to industrial output, it only indirectly applies to consumer activity, and it's almost irrelevant to the intentional purchase of a fuel-efficient car. If you buy a less-polluting car to be less polluting, obviously you don't drive more. If you buy it to save on fuel costs, it's ludicrous to suggest you fill up your car on the same schedule with the same $50 and go "Whee 3 gallons left over, let's drive more." As so many people are proud of lecturing, the operational savings from a more efficient car usually don't pay for themselves, but there would be none if people drove further. It's true that the money saved by efficiency will go into other economic activities. But the environmentalist buys other green technology, and the money saver buys random crap that doesn't have nearly the carbon footprint of operating an inefficient car.
        Spec
        • 4 Years Ago
        @Smith Jim
        CAFE standards are a TERRIBLE scheme for auto fuel economy. But we are stuck with it because gas taxes are viewed as political suicide. When the only tool you is a hammer, that is the tool you use. If I could replace CAFE with a better system, I'd do it in a second . . . but it is better than nothing.
        Marco Polo
        • 4 Years Ago
        @Smith Jim
        @David , We already have a very good examples of a tax or levy being effective in changing society and lifestyles. The very high taxes on tobacco, claimed to be financing anti-smoking education. The justification for this action is validated by the non-smoker being required to pay for higher health costs due to smoking. This could have been achieved by regulation, but a moral aspect crept into the issue and all reason disappeared in a welter of emotion. The question is, how for does this principle intend? Social Engineering by tax, is never popular and always oppressive to minorities. I'm always fearful when I hear the term, "used to discourage things you don't want, and encourage those you do", probably because the 'you' in question is seldom 'me'!
          skierpage
          • 4 Years Ago
          @Marco Polo
          "Social Engineering by tax, is never popular" The reality is "tax is never popular". Sin taxes are more popular than general tax increases.
        Joeviocoe
        • 4 Years Ago
        @Smith Jim
        Companies don't "take a loss" in the overall big picture. The pass costs on to consumers. If they take a loss on small cars, they would UP CHARGE big SUVs.... you know, the product that actually hurts their CAFE numbers and they would want to sell less of. SUVs and Trucks SHOULD be way more expensive than they really are! But no... even the lower middle class are seen riding around in Suburbans (and no kids).
        Marco Polo
        • 4 Years Ago
        @Smith Jim
        Jim, you are right, you're not an economist. A lot of what seem really good ideas, don't survive detailed economic analysis. Discounting, Fordninsight's eccentric opinion that the raising of taxes is somehow right-wing plot.!.(I can hear Sir Vix and LTW, guffawing with delight!), the question becomes if CAFE type regulations or taxation penalties will prove more successful in promoting a more sustainable fuel policy. Right now, the Carbon Tax debate is very intense in Australia. Australia has the unusual situation of a Centre-left Party that was elected on a wave of green votes, including a carbon tax. Within two years, the electorate had changed it's mind and the Centre-left were returned as a minority party, relying on the independents and greens to keep office. Pandering to their green allies, the government is attempting to re-introduce a carbon tax, with the polls showing 77% of voters opposed. How times and voter intentions change! The USA still enjoys the cheapest fuel prices in the industrialised world. By your argument, the government should tax the motorist, and give money to alternate power technologies. Sounds great! But ignoring the fact that this money is usually wasted on idealistic , impractical or just plain scams, will the economy respond favourably? Probably not. But it's really simple, the US is still a democracy, Obama, and Congressional candidates just announce a fuel levy/tax and let the voter decide.!
          Smith Jim
          • 4 Years Ago
          @Marco Polo
          Forgive me for rambling on but based on public opinion in this country and in Australia and other parts of the world I am not optimistic about the future of life on this planet. I've done way too much reading on the subjects of climate change, ocean acidification, peak oil, Jevon's paradox, and ecological overshoot. I sometimes wish I could go back to blissful ignorance like the rest of the population.
          Marco Polo
          • 4 Years Ago
          @Marco Polo
          @Jim. Whats wrong with your proposition is that when you tax any economic activity, you affect all economic activity. This often creates some unintended and very undesirable consequences. It all depends on whether you believe that governments should use Taxation as a method of social engineering, or simply to pay for government services. Taxes on things like "carbon' and Gasoline, start out as directly benefiting the infrastructure but end up as general revenue.
          Smith Jim
          • 4 Years Ago
          @Marco Polo
          I understand what you mean about letting voters decide but in this country we have something called representative Democracy. (slight snark) But we have one major political party in the US where 99.9% of the members believe there is a massive worldwide conspiracy to distort climate science as a means to take away their beloved assault rifles. I'm not sure why they believe climate change and assault rifles are connected but the oil companies say so and 99.9% of this particular political party believe it. Anyway, if the party which does not buy into conspiracy theories gets into power they are too scared to do anything that might seem like they are asking voters to make a tiny sacrifice to save the biosphere.
          Smith Jim
          • 4 Years Ago
          @Marco Polo
          I only took two college level economics classes but I got an "A" in both classes. Anyway, I certainly remember the concept of external costs. Even back in those olden days the standard textbook example of an external cost was pollution. And the number one suggested way to compensate for external costs was a tax to discourage pollution. I understand that you folks across the pond do tax gasoline heavily and use those revenues to subsidize things like public transportation. What economic concept did I get wrong professor?
      Steven
      • 4 Years Ago
      Gas prices are killing this nation's economy now. What sense does it make to throw magnesium in the fire? I went up to lake country last week to see some friends. A quarter of the businesses weren't open, they should have been opened last month. My friends tell me, the owners are waiting to see if the tourists are coming, they're not. From what I saw, it was a ghost town. Go ahead, stick the knife the rest of the way in. It's truly depressing how stupid, ignorant and blind, people in power can be. This might be the year my boat sits out the season in the barn. Akerson is the best advertisement foreign car companies could have ever asked for, when gas prices "necessarily skyrocket" I sure won't be buying the junk Government Motors is pushing.
        Spec
        • 4 Years Ago
        @Steven
        Well guess what . . . those gas prices are only going to go higher whether or not taxes are part of it. We might as well have the gas prices go up with taxes since at least that pay for our government. When they go up with oil price increases, some 2/3s of that money just leaves the country to the oil exporter. The days of cheap oil are OVER. Our economy needs to change. Cheap oil based recreation businesses are going to suffer and not much can be done about it. We need high-speed trains to vacation destinations.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I bet that if a gas tax of 1 dollar were added to gas, that ethenol E85 would also suddenly also go up by a dollar over night.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Great response from a guy whose company would have died without taking billions of dollars in taxpayer money.
      • 4 Years Ago
      "People will start buying more Cruzes and they will start buying less Suburbans." Seriously, if he wants people to stop buying Suburbans, maybe, just maybe, he should stop making Suburbans. But, he will argue, people want Suburbans. Well far more people want lower gas prices, so it seems that lower gas prices trump Suburbans. With his fuzzy thinking, it is no wonder that GM can only survive with the taxpayer's help.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Great response from guy who' company took billions of dollars in taxpayer money!
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