How Our Readers Would Encourage Americans to Use Less Gasoline

By Brendan Moore

07.28.2007

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?

COPYRIGHT Autosavant.net – All Rights Reserved

Author: Brendan Moore

Brendan Moore is a Principal Consultant with Cedar Point Consulting , a management consulting practice based in the Washington, DC area. He also manages Autosavant Consulting, a separate practice within Cedar Point Consulting. where he advises businesses connected to the auto industry. Cedar Point Consulting can be found at http://www.cedarpointconsulting.com.

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15 Comments

  1. I like the whole idea about the nuclear power plants and electric vehicles. That’s a good one.

  2. But although it may have escaped the attention of most of your readers, the second choice is not really a tax increase. It’s a tax trade-off, a tax offset. If you raise taxes on one thing that everyone uses and REDUCE income taxes, which everyone must pay, then it really is not a tax iincrease overall. You’re just swapping one tax for another. The overall tax burden is the same. It is the best choice among all the choices that have taxes mentioned in them.

  3. Choice number 5 is not doing nothing. It’s doing something, something which is called not giving into socialism and letting the free market decide when using less gasoline makes sense. When gasoline is 8 dollars a gallon and only well-off people can afford to drive, then you’ll see companies produce all sorts of cars that get great fuel mileage or run on electricity, etc. The high price of gasoline will make that happen, and the market supply and demand will determine the price of gasoline. Anything else is just socialism.

  4. huengling, you say it right in your post: if we allow the market to determine when we start doing something, then nothing will get done until only the rich can afford to drive. What the hell kind of solution is that?

  5. Here is a basic Fischer-Tropsch design. I am capable of one twice as efficient. I work currently as a temp assembler. But i want to do so much more, as you can clearly see, and I and the world would gladly appreciate some assistance.
    This is a copy of the e-pamphlet im using.

    The Texas Tea Theory

    Ok, listen up people. It’s December, 2007. The war isn’t showing many signs of success, and Saudi Arabia has told us that they can no longer keep up with increasing demand as Asia and now Russia become fully modern societies. The latter meaning they will use much of their own oil in the process of progress. Oil now stands at record prices, about 90-100 USD/bbl. And we just had a tropical storm in DECEMBER? No one can deny that we have both a climate problem and an oil problem. My plan, just to let you know, is nature-friendly: I plan to compost our sewage to feed our fields to produce all kinds of crops, including hemp, for food, fuel and plastic. The garbage from this would be thrown in too, in a “carbon flywheel” to store carbon energy from the sun. Composting would put net carbon back into the earth in accordance with the natural cycles. If we dont act soon, we may have neither food or fuel. Lower-income families are already having to make a choice
    between food whose price is inflated by the use of corn for fuel and gas to go to work.

    I frankly should have completed this earlier. I mean, the below apparatus has already been done, in fact it’s probably over 40 years old. I am capable of building something at least twice as efficient. But here’s something a bit more open-source for you all – thats right, i said open-source. Build one if you want, just credit me with the creation of this wonderful home fuel device. This takes your organic garbage and turns it into synthetic gasoline, which just like synthetic oil is better for the engine. Don’t forget to add 10% ethanol. I am not responsible if you blow yourself up with inferior craftmanship!

    Start with a 5′ length of 8″ Sch. 40 309 or 310 stainless steel pipe. Cap it at both ends, and make sure you can take the top off to add garbage. Add 2 1/4″ taps in the side for temperature and pressure gauges, and a 1/2″ in the bottom. This goes for 3″ and then it comes to a T-junction where one end goes through a 1/32″ restriction and then 1/2″ pipe to a steam tank made from 1′ of the 8″ pipe that sits directly below the gasifier. This pipe should have a 45-degree t-section in the line to add first 2 and then 1 liter of water per operation. The main branch goes directly upward alongside the side of the gasifier, then goes off to one side for 12″ and then down into the ash filtration unit. There is also a 1/2′ in the side for a 400 psi relief valve.

    The ash filtration unit is 1′ of the 8″ pipe. The 1/2″ pipe goes down through the 200-mesh screen placed 9″ into the filter. The top is filled with 1 kg of lime. The 1/2″ outlet in the top has another screen. A 12″ loop of the 1/2″ water pipe (Schedule 80) goes through here too. Everything after this can be made of standard steel.
    After that, a 1/2″ pipe to the 4-way junction. One going off to the side has a valve and a gas regulator (1.9mm venturi expanding to 6″ with a 3/4″ outlet) to reduce the pressure to near normal before going back to the gasifier to heat the reaction from the outside of the unit. I reccommend a ring of gas nozzles, one column each on 4 sides of the unit, with 6 nozzles each. The more evenly distributed the better, and constructing a heat shield over it like a brick oven should work well. The other pipe has a valve and goes to a catalyst maker where the gas flows through the 6″ x 24″ pipe, through a screen out to a regulator (the same sort from earlier), and is burned on the outside of the unit. The pipe going through to the reactor has a valve. To make catalyst, shut off this valve. To make fuel, shut off the catalyst maker valve for 4 hours. To test the relief valve, close all valves…

    Now for the main show. Start with 8″ by 5′ Schedule 80 pipe (anything in this part should be made of S80), cap it off at both ends. Make a ring of 1/2″ coolant pipes around the inside surface of this, plus a 1/2″ in top and bottom for the gas and another 1″ in the top for catalyst loading. Put a screen about 6″ from the bottom, and make it slope downward towards the inlet pipe. The 6″ of pipe inside the reactor is to be perforated. The catalyst outlet is at the bottom of the unit through the inlet. Now make an outer shell of 10″ pipe with enough clearance to put caps on this pipe as well with the main reactor inside. The coolant pipes should be interconnected in every possible way, with a main outlet on both top and bottom manifolds. The coolant system should be filled with distilled water. You should make a sizeable square radiator, with a steam-powered fan and return pump and a steam relief valve set for 100 atmospheres. 10hp should be enough for both.
    Load with 6 liters by volume of 100-mesh reduced iron or magnetite (Fe3O4).

    Now for the final processing. a 3/8″ venturi expanding to 6″ and then capped will expand and cool the gases. Just to make sure, run some of the coolant through this part too. 3/4″ to the filtering chamber, which is a section of 6″ pipe sideways with a 1.8 angstrom membrane to filter out water (out the bottom) and a 4.3 angstrom membrane to filter light gases out the top pipe. The water is returned through a 500-psi one-way valve to the tank, the gases to a 5 gal. storage tank thats connected to the main reactor burners, and the fuel to a grounded, vented storage tank with a meter and pump.

    The relief system is rather simple. The pipe from the relief valve goes through a gas regulator with a 4mm nozzle and then straight upward for 6 feet, and the top 6″ is perforated with 1/4″ holes. A small pilot light from the main gas storage runs here and should be kept lit while the machine is in operation. Put a shroud on it too. You dont want to be known as the flaming fart of St. Pete.
    Speaking of which….. No smoking anywhere NEAR this thing. Happy motoring! This thing makes 1 gallon at a time – it will take 15 minutes for the reaction to complete.

    The inventor of this Golden…erm…thingamjig can be reached here…..

    James L. Holley
    386-266-9073
    kelethian@gmail.com

  6. The quickest way to reduce oil consumption would be to eliminate the Federal tax on diesel fuel for viehicles under 8000 lbs GVW. If seriously worried about the loss of revenue it could be a moratorium on tax untill 25-30% market penetraton.

    Knock 40 cents off of the price of diesel and everyone will be scrambling to build european style diesels for the US market.

  7. I much prefer the carrot-and-stick approach of punishing people for using a lot of gasoline through taxation of gasoline, and rewarding them for buying something that doesn’t use much gasoline by giving them a tax credit when they buy an highly energy efficient car. It’s kind of a hybrid (no pun intended) between two of the choices in the poll.

  8. The public, at least the part that likes cars, knows that CAFE is ridiculous, and that is reflected in the survey results. Economic factors are the things that change people’s behavior, not making the car companies make more cars that get better fuel economy. Consumers have to WANT to buy a car that gets much better fuel economy.

  9. So you’re telling me that all of the people that voted in your survey are smarter than the rest of the people in the country? A majority of Americans support the new CAFE standards and I think it is a wonderful step towards making the auto companies produce the the cars we need instead of the wasteful gas-guzzlers they have been churning out for decades.

  10. I agree with “pleased in kansas” that it’s about time that the companies that make cars give us the cars we want. As far as your poll, this is a site for sports car fans, so of course they don’t want anything to change and they want gasoline to stay cheap and and they want to keep driving their big Suv’s until there is not more oil left, so I can’t put much value on your survey results. You’re not asking the average American what they think. The new CAFE rules are great as far as I’m concerned, and I’m happy that the auto companies are finally going to be forced to make good economical cars.

  11. pleased in tx, It’s hard to know where to start with calling you stupid, so I’ll start with the biggest hole in your statement. Most of the people that voted want a major change which is a lot more wrenching short-term than CAFE changing – they want higher taxes on gas or on the cars that use a lot of gas, or to pay for alternative energy cars. That is hardly wanting things to stay the same! Those people know, like anyone that’s not retarded knows, that economic forces drive consumer behavior, not government saying “that the auto companies are finally going to be forced to make good economical cars”. CAFE is dumb. CAFE goes against every tenent of Economics 101 and only idiots or timid politicians like it.

  12. mark in az got a interesting point about diesel taxes. Also I could add then California should soft its policies about diesel vehicules (less strict emission standards for all-new diesel vehicules) or using more biodiesel.

    And if the insurances rates wasn’t so heavely high on various sport-cars in North America, maybe just maybe, more peoples would had go to sport-cars instead of SUV, I spotted a back-up copy of the Sports-car death list

    And I spotted a interesting rant about “diesel muscle-car” on Diesel Power magazine blog.

  13. No politician is going to be truthful about the stark choices that await us regarding gasoline/oil consumption in the future. We need to get off the dope that is oil as soon as possible, but most Americans don’t want to go to rehab if it’s going to hurt, and there is no politician willing to mount an intervention for the addict that is the American public by raising the price of gasoline or gas-slurping vehicles. Far easier to throw the problem in the laps of the car companies: “Here, you are going to be forced to make cars that Americans SHOULD be driving, but we’re not going to make gasoline more expensive so that Americans will actually WANT to drive the cars we’re forcing you to make”.

    That is CAFE and what a moronic concept it is.

  14. To the guy with the the mystery miracle engine and the ridiculously long post, give me a break. As if.

    To all the other people that are reading this, am I alone in thinking about nuclear energy as a possible solution? Nuclear energy produces incredible amounts of electricity which can be used to power incredible amounts of electric vehicles (EV) in the U.S. (as well as businesses and homes). Nuclear power is much safer that it was and does not have the pollutants that oil, gas, coal, etc. have.

    Why is this always left out of the discussion in the U.S.?

  15. I also want to put nuclear energy on the table and in a big way. When you have a country like France getting 80% of their electricity from nuclear power, the question is worth asking.

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