On Track to Saving Gas

According to Slate, there’s a growing push to raise the Federal gas tax to reduce our dependence on foreign oil (and to combat global warming, though they don’t get into that).

It’s not too surprising to find an argument like this on a brainy site like Slate. But I was surprised to discover one of their article’s links was to a “horsepower-addled car magazine editor” promoting the same idea.

Still more surprising was to find that, in skimming the comments section, many “horsepower-addled car magazine” readers actually seemed agreeable to the concept. I was struck by one entry in particular, by an apparently erudite commenter – “Trackaholic” – who argued for what I believe would be a wise approach to promoting fuel economy in our nation’s vehicles:

I agree with DrCruelty: Change the CAFE rules from artificial limits placed on the Auto MFG’s, to taxes/rebates geared toward the consumer. Change the “gas guzzler” tax on new vehicles to affect trucks as well as cars, and make it more progressive, so that more vehicles are affected. Provide incentives for people to get rid of old, inefficient vehicles and move into smaller cars with better mileage. Increase the tax on petrol to be more similar to the tax on deisel.

The overriding goal is to provide consumers an incentive to move towards more efficient vehicles and to make them think twice before purchasing something that they might not need. In the end, they still have the choice to buy a large truck or SUV, and they will still have the choice to buy a high powered sports car or sedan, and the auto MFG’s will not have artificial constraints about trying to build a 35 MPG vehilce if everyone still wants to buy a truck.

Basically, encourage people from the bottom up, rather than trying to force them from the top down.

-TH

First, a couple of minor points:

1 – Whoever DrCruelty is, he didn’t sound quite as erudite as Trackaholic. DrCruelty’s suggestion was straightforward, but his argument was less developed: “Axe CAFE, tax gas.”

2 – I’m not sure how one reaches the formulation that “TH”=”Trackaholic.” Or vice versa. And what is this “petrol” of which he speaks? In spite of his NASCAR-like nom de plume, is he really a Brit?

Nevertheless, I applaud the idea of replacing a top-down regulation of dubious effectiveness like CAFE with the bottom-up approach proposed by TH. This approach is very much in line with a basic facet of our quantum world.

Such an approach offers a number of pluses. It sets values (higher prices for gas and inefficient vehicles) that are aligned with our nation’s interest (reducing dependence on foreign oil), while still giving individuals the freedom to drive whatever their hearts desire (and their wallets can afford). It also gives automakers a clearer and more consistent market environment to produce for – instead of one that swings wildly, salivating for SUV’s one month and then hot for hybrids 6 months later.

Finally – and not a small thing – removing a cumbersome regulation of dubious effectiveness like CAFE will do away with one source of automotive agita for “horsepower-addled car pundits” (and scourges of the “nanny state”) like Brock Yates. Not to worry – I’m sure they’ll still find plenty of other things to get rev’d up about.

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About Dave Higgins

I've been interested in current events since at least the mid 1960's, and in ideas from modern science since the early 1990's. My website Quantum Age, which has been online since 1996, presents a basic framework for applying ideas from modern science to today's world. In this blog I discuss current events in the context of that framework.
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