The Car Talk Graduated Gasoline Tax.

Comments, thoughts?

If we do that, we’ll need to include gasoline vouchers that go out every month with welfare checks. Otherwise that’ll put a lot of people out of reach of their jobs.

Well, I think the idea is that the gasoline tax would provide market incentives to develop transportation alternatives, so at some point the jobs would move back within reach of the people and/or vice versa. But yeah, a tax increasing by fifty cents per gallon per year over six years would have a pretty disruptive impact in the short run.

Yes, I think we probably won’t be able to achieve significantly greater fuel efficiency without significant fuel taxes, or increases in fuel prices. But three bucks a gallon in six years sounds kind of ouchy.

I no go in my opinion. I live in a rural area which is economically depressed already. Many farm wives drive thirty miles to minimum wage jobs just for the health insurance. This sort of burden would kill this county.

Sounds like a great opportunity for an enterprising biodiesel merchant, though.

I live 30 mintues from work, so I think it’s a bad idea, too.
I’d sure like to have an electric car that I could plug into Nuclear One. :slight_smile:

My idea is rationing. Everyone gets rations tickets to make it to work and back five days a week at $2.00 a gallon. Gas over that costs $4.00 a gallon. We get ration tickets according to where we live and work.

How do we make sure that the taxes from anyone’s plan go to building my electric car?

How about letting the market take care of it? As it is, the average gasoline tax nationwide is 42 cents per gallon.

Combine that with the high price of crude these days, and it’s plenty of incentive to move to alternative fuels and the like. Think about it… do you remember hearing a peep about biodiesel, E-85 and stuff like thermal depolymerization in 2000?

Artificially inflating the price of gas isn’t the way to do it- instead incentivize the alternatives. That way, you don’t screw the people who can’t afford to switch away from gasoline, and you reward those who can. Everybody wins.

I dunno. European countries already have gasoline taxes that would be considered outrageous by US standards, and it doesn’t seem to be spawning incredible advances in fuel economy over there. Sure, they have smaller cars and hybrids, but you can get them in the US too, for the most part.

Good post bump. I love the idea of increasing the tax breaks to hybrid and E-85 cars.
I have also mentioned a few times on the dope that I would like to see an additional gas tax system that penalized cars that get under 20 mpg and rewards cars that get over 40 mpg. There will need to be exceptions for commercial and farm vehicles of course.
In a nutshell if the average gas tax is 42¢ then charge the gas-guzzlers 67¢ and the highly efficient only 17¢. A 25¢ per gallon discount will encourage a lot of purchases of very efficient cars and decrease the sales of large gas guzzling SUVs. If you are rich and want to pay an extra 50¢ per gallon instead of buying a highly efficient car, you still have the right and choice and get to feel good that at least you are helping others to drive hybrids, motorcycles and other efficient vehicles.


Sounds like the Euro thing to do. We can give the proceeds to the people who become traumatized over the loss of their jobs.

This idea goes back to presidential candidate John Anderson. WHO? Exactly.

As much as I liked him at the time, he suggested in Congress that Christianity be the National Religion of the United States. :rolleyes:

Wow, missed that one in the newspaper. :eek: He always had good quotes though. The one I remember most was “people enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought”.

The funny thing about his gas tax proposal is that Reagan went ahead and did it on a smaller scale (10 cents vs 25 cents/gallon if I remember correctly).

Not a 50 cents a year tax. People get enraged when gas goes up 20 cents a gallon. I would recommend something like a 10-15 cent a year tax combined with incentives like bump said for E85 and other fuels.

As it stands we use about 160 billion gallons of fuel a year, so even a 15 cent tax is still good for 24 billion in R&D for alternative fuels. That is about the size of the entire DoE’s budget

However with countries like India & China growing so rapidly their use of gas is going to keep going up and up. Gas straight from the ground will never be $0.89 a gallon anymore as global demand has gone up dramatically since the early 90s.

So as it stands we already have incentives to start finding new fuels. With the developing world growing rapidly we will need more fuels. So yeah, I support the idea but not at 50 cents a gallon. A 10-15 cent tax is a good idea though.

That seems steep. It’s also not the best way to tackle global warming (if that’s your goal).

It would be better to phase in a $50 per ton carbon tax, which would be roughly equivalent to a 50 cent gas tax, IIRC. That would discourage the use of C02- intensive coal, while encouraging natural gas.

I might go for a petrol tax on top of that though to help pay for our military adventures.

------ How do we make sure that the taxes from anyone’s plan go to building my electric car?

It’s the magic of the marketplace. When prices of a product go up, people make all sorts of adjustments to substitute out of it. Some will buy smaller vehicles. Others will ride mass transit. Still others will relocate closer to their place of work. Obviously, the ease of taking such steps will vary across the population, but that’s not a bug, it’s a feature.

Given the number of 1-driver SUVs that I see on the road, I would assert that there’s a lot of scope for some not especially burdensome adjustment.

The government already does this, with a tax on the vehicle. The problem is, SUVs are classified as commercial vehicles, so they’re exempt from the mileage standards.

Also assuming it really does add up at 50 cents a gallon per year and we use 160 billion gallons a year that means a tax increase of 80 billion a year. By the end of 4 years you have an extra 320 billion in taxes. 320 billion in taxes is the equivalent of a 10% tax increase (total tax revenues in the US total about 3 trillion). 320 billion would finance 160 nuclear power plants which would power roughly 30% of america’s electricity needs.

Plus that tax would hit the poor and middle class harder than the upper class. If you make 300k a year you are still probably only buying about 500 gallons of gas a year for your car and paying about $250 a year in this particular tax. If you make 20k a year that is an extra $250 a year in taxes, at the end of 4 years with $1000 a year that is an extra 5% of your income in taxes. For someone making 300k a year its only a 0.3% tax increase.

Sure it has. However, the “advances in fuel economy” are not necessarily about improving the mileage of individual automobiles. They’re dispersed among other options too, like expanding public transit and minimizing commutes. But the overall result is exactly what you’d expect: Europeans pay much more for gasoline => Europeans use much less gasoline.

Yeah, but most drivers in the US don’t, because they don’t have significant economic incentives to do so. This will change as gas prices rise, but it will doubtless be painful.

The trouble is that for many years, our attitude toward fuel taxes has been kind of like that of the guy who won’t fix the hole in his roof when it’s sunny because it’s too much work for something that isn’t bothering him at the moment, and won’t fix the hole when it’s raining because he doesn’t like working in the rain.

Similarly, we’ve constantly resisted raising gas taxes when gas is cheap—because hey, gas is cheap, so why should we provide incentives to use less of it?—and resisted it even more strongly when gas is expensive—because hey, we’re already hurting at the pump and it would be economic suicide to punish us further.

So we go on making our society ever more dependent on the individual automobile, and ever more vulnerable to the pinch that will come when cheap gas goes away forever.

What we need is a progressive gas tax, where there is someway that a poor shlub could get a tax credit for each gallon of gas, a lower middle class shlub would pay no gas tax and a filthy rich shlub would be paying a heafty percentage of the total gas tax collected.

It is not enough to pay a one time fee (especially with the stupid exemption). I want drivers to feel the difference every time they fill up. If nothing else, someone looking at a car with 36 mpg will very likely jump to a car that gets over 40+.
Many commuters will stop buying SUVs and get an efficient car. It would make a huge difference in my state where half the cars commuting in the “commuter state” are cars minivans/SUVs.

I do not agree, reward and penalize the buying decision , not the income level.


If it’s cost, it will always be the income level. The wealthy can buy a gas hog and pay taxes out the kazoo on it and fuel. I’ll be starting to pedal at 6:00 AM to get to work.
Put a lower speed limit on cars with bad milage, or don’t allow them into the city.