In yesterdays ed, Tax My Products, Please the WSJ argues that Ford CEO Mually’s call for higher fuel taxes is like “a Google executive demanding a tax on software”.
That analogy being as it may; what they are really renewing is their intentional obliviousness to externalities. And the tacit cost-shifting that inevitably results. Combusting fuel is damaging on its face (even if you don’t “believe in” global warming — as the WSJ editorial board clearly does not). Both in environmental damage and the toll it takes on human health.
So, who pays for all the negative externalities arising from automobility? Drivers don’t; the costs are all shifted to “society”.
They firmly support the status-quo; dead-set against cap-and-trade, and dead set against any increase in fuel taxes. Fuel taxes, which are supposed to fund road construction and maintenance have been dwindling in real dollars for years. The gas tax, which is levied per gallon, hasn’t budged in years; and does not adjust for little things like inflation. It has been at the current federal rate of 18.4 cents per gallon as long ago as 1993 (going on 16years! The arizona state gas tax hasn’t changed in even longer). This leaving a gap which is filled from other funds, like income, sales, and property taxes. (sources that have nothing to with driving).
This underpricing inexorably (remember WSJ eds, the laws of economics?) causes a greater demand for driving, and more roads, and more driving…
To cap off this topic, I’ve pasted below the one letter-to-the-editor
that ran in print edition today, March 20, 2009. At first I thought the writer was being ironic, but apparently not. On closer inspection, it seems that he is of the something-for-nothing school. He believes, for example, that a 5,000lb. truck can or should get “more than 30mpg” (though he doesn’t say gallons of what; perhaps it is rocket fuel or something). To support his belief, he cites an acquaintance that has done so; but for unstated reasons, no one sells what would certainly be a highly desirable vehicle — perhaps a conspiracy? In the real world, expect to get about 15mpg in a 5,000 pound vehicle. If automakers (and that includes not just the big-three, but all of them worldwide) could make their engines twice as efficient; THEY WOULD DO SO.
In response to Ford CEO Alan Mulally’s call for higher gas taxes (which you report in “Tax My Products, Please,” Review & Outlook, March 17), I would like to say that Americans don’t want smaller vehicles. We have great distances to travel, mountains and plains to cross in all seasons of the year. We tow our boats and other contrivances. We haul our children around and travel with them over the continent. Our businessmen drive long distances since they can no longer own corporate jets. What we want is a more efficient internal combustion engine, not a smaller car.
And do not tell us it cannot be done. It can be done, because efficient engines can be created today with off-the-shelf parts bought from General Motors, Ford or Chrysler.
A friend of mine has converted a GMC Vortec V8 gasoline engine for his 2.5 ton pickup truck and the engine delivers more than 30 mpg. Why can’t we buy this type of vehicle at the dealer? Why does individual ingenuity have to point the way to corporations that have the money, skill and engineering brainpower to deliver a more efficient engine? Why do we have to pay more at the pump?
The suggestion that consumers should pay more in gasoline taxes is a cop-out on the part of the auto makers, politicians and everyone else who supports it. This is not Europe. This is the United States of America, a vast country with amazing distances and varieties of geography and climate.
We do not want higher gas prices. We want more efficient engines to power our vehicles. We want the Big Three to use their brains to create something new, not deliver a rehash of junk from a bunch of whiners.
Bernard P. Giroux
Fall River, Mass.