How Our Readers Would Encourage Americans to Use Less Gasoline
By Brendan Moore
Some of our regular readers may have noticed that we ran an online poll over the past week regarding our readers’ preferences for five methods the federal government could use to get American motorists to use less gasoline. We offered five distinct choices in the poll.
The question was posed as follows:
Here is the problem: the U.S. government wants people to use less gasoline. There are various ways of doing this. Of the choices offered below, what is your preference?
Here are the choices along with percentage of poll respondents that selected each choice:
1. Raise CAFE standards and subsidize ethanol fuel as the current energy bill stipulates – 3% of all votes
2. Raise the gas tax so that gasoline costs $6 a gallon and offset the gas tax with a decrease in the federal income tax rate – 26% of all votes
3. Massive federal subsidies to develop alternative energy vehicles, paid for by increased taxes – 7% of all votes
4. A combination of large taxes on vehicles that get poor fuel economy, levied annually, and tax credits for buyers of vehicles that are highly energy-efficient – 27% of all votes
5. Do nothing – the market will determine when alternatives to gasoline make economic sense – 37% of all votes
I wish to say that I know some of you will want to email in or perhaps comment on this post that YOU would have certainly offered different choices, like “Develop light rail everywhere possible” or “Outlaw SUVs in the U.S.” or “Build lots of nuclear power plants and allow only electric vehicles to be sold in the U.S.” or whatever, but those are the breaks. Five choices is already a lot of options for a poll, and these are the ones we picked. Sorry your favorite solution didn’t make the cut.
OK, first, I was surprised by a few of the results. One, I thought the energy bill that was just signed into law (choice #1) would get more votes than it did. I personally think it’s an incredibly stupid way of trying to get people to use less gasoline, but I thought more Americans were behind the measure. Doesn’t anyone except politicians like this new law?
Second, I was surprised that choice #5 didn’t get more votes than it did. We are, after all, Americans, and Americans generally like to put off any hardship or sacrifice as long as possible. The 37% of people that voted for “do nothing” is quite a bit lower than I would have predicted before the voting began.
Third, in that same vein, I must admit that I was surprised at the high percentage of people that were willing to endure higher taxes in some fashion in order to push consumers and industry towards more fuel-efficient cars or alternative fuel vehicles. Just do the math and you’ll see that the aggregate percentage of people who are willing to tax vehicles that get lousy gas mileage or tax gasoline so that people who drive vehicles that get lousy gas mileage pay more to drive those vehicles (choices #3 and #4 together) is a combined 53% of poll respondents.
People that don’t wish to tax gasoline or vehicles that use a lot of gasoline directly, but are willing to pay more general taxes through the subsidization of ethanol or the subsidization of research and development of alternative energy vehicles (choices #1 and # 3 together) is a combined 10% of poll respondents.
Add all of those percentages together of people that are willing to pay more taxes in order to promote using less gasoline via one of the methods in choices 1-4, and you have 63% of all respondents to the poll. That is surprising to me, but perhaps it reflects the desire among those readers to see something happen sooner rather than later regarding the problem of our dependence on oil as an energy source.
Of course, one thing it doesn’t reflect is the popular belief that any politician that proposes a gasoline tax or an annual tax on gas-guzzlers is committing political suicide and that’s why the American public will never be presented with that option. The politicians would much rather make the vehicles cost more through the new CAFÉ requirements and subsidize (using ridiculous logic, I might add) ethanol through the general tax fund, which, of course, also makes Americans pay more. It’s just a shell game but it does keep our political leaders from having to utter the dreaded phrase “gas tax”. The money from consumers will just have to come in another way, that’s all.
This is the popular belief, and just to put my cards on the table, I am a subscriber to that premise; that is, that any politician advocating this type of tax will get drummed out of office quickly. And I still believe that, despite our poll results.
Is this a case of people saying that they support something that they really wouldn’t support once they actually to pony up the extra taxes? Or is the popular belief that any politician that supports increased taxation on gasoline or gas-guzzlers will be booted out of office by his/her constituents simply a myth?
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