Time for a Real Gas Tax? No? Think about it.

Back before we found that even $3 a gallon gasoline would not slake the American thirst for the fuel, there were people like Thomas Friedman of the NYTimes and Sen. John Kerry (and me), who advocated for a 50 cent gas tax to keep at least some of the money we spend on gasoline in the country and cut down consumption. Now we know better. We gotta have our "fix" of gasoline juice even if it costs us thousands of dollars personally annually. (15,000 miles at 15 MPG at $3 a gallon is $3,000 - about $57 a week.)

Since we consume about 180 Billion gallons a year, a 50 cent gas tax would raise about $90 Billion. Hey, isn't that what a year of war in Iraq costs?

Why mention this now? Because moderate/conservative newsman Morton Kondracke of Roll Call just came out and said it. He believes that raising the gas tax would cut our deficit, reduce fuel imports, encourage development and sales of more efficient autos, and reduce emissions, global warming and accidents. Trouble is, we meekly accept variations in the world price of fuel - after all supply is set by OPEC, a cartel - but we will freak out if our government says it is in our own self-interest to do so. That is what taxes do - change behavior.

Oil prices surpassed $72 a barrel yesterday, so prices are not likely to go down anytime soon UNLESS we find ways to buy less fuel. A 50 cent gas tax should depress consumption. People will car pool, take the bus, bicycle to avoid paying it. It will be tough for us all but maybe it is time. And if it offsets the cost of the war in Iraq, all the better.

[Source: Roll Call via Napa Valley Register]

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