Baby, I Can’t Drive My Car

Sindya N. Bhanoo at NYT:

To meet the Obama administration’s targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions, some researchers say, Americans may have to experience a sobering reality: gas at $7 a gallon.

To reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the transportation sector 14 percent from 2005 levels by 2020, the cost of driving must simply increase, according to a forthcoming report by researchers at Harvard’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.

The 14 percent target was set in the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget for fiscal 2010.

In their study, the researchers devised several combinations of steps that United States policymakers might take in trying to address the heat-trapping emissions by the nation’s transportation sector, which consumes 70 percent of the oil used in the United States.

Most of their models assumed an economy-wide carbon dioxide tax starting at $30 a ton in 2010 and escalating to $60 a ton in 2030. In some cases researchers also factored in tax credits for electric and hybrid vehicles, taxes on fuel or both.

In the modeling, it turned out that issuing tax credits could backfire, while taxes on fuel proved beneficial.

Nick Loris at Heritage Foundation:

Such an approach would do nothing but cause more economic pain for American households. Higher gas prices lower employment, income, and spending, and Americans will have to dip into their savings to pay for higher gas prices. Heritage economist Karen Campbell details these effects in her paper, “How Rising Gas Prices Hurt American Households.”

Furthermore, a carbon fee would do very little to reduce CO2 emissions. As Senior Policy Analyst Ben Lieberman points out, gasoline prices have already reached these levels in Western Europe where nations have made commitments to cut CO2, yet we are outperforming them in terms of emissions reductions.

Higher fuel prices adversely affect just about every aspect of the economy. Food prices, for instance, will increase as it costs more to harvest, manufacture and transport food. And as the price of airline tickets rise, people will travel less. It may be easier to support these policies when public transportation is readily available – although the cost of public transportation will rise as well. However, many parts of the country do not have access to public transportation and have to drive a significant distance just to get to a grocery store.

Indeed, the rural, poorer areas will be hit hardest by a spike in gasoline prices as residents in these areas spend a larger percentage of their income on fuel. When gasoline prices passed the $4-per-gallon mark, Fred Rozell, pricing director at a fuel analysis firm said, “This crisis really impacts those who are at the economic margins of society, mostly in the rural areas and particularly parts of the Southeast. These are people who have to decide between food and transportation.” This map provided by the New York Times shows the percentage of income spent on gasoline throughout the country.

Tom Maguire:

I can get behind a revenue neutral gasoline tax, but the orders of magnitude here are staggering.

Per the DoE, the US uses about 378 million gallons of motor gasoline a day.  A $5/gallon tax would raise roughly $2 billion per day, or about $700 billion per year (although one hopes the higher tax would succeed in reducing consumption, since the goal is a 14% cut).

By way of comparison, the US Treasury takes in about $900 billion per year from the income tax and another $900 billion from the Social Security taxes.  Are we going to virtually repeal the Social Security tax to offset this gasoline tax?  Cool.  But who will believe that the net of tax hikes and increases is really neutral?  And the prospective losers will howl.

John Peeples:

According to Wikipedia, the world’s population stands today at about 6.7 billion people, and is forecast to hit 9 billion folks roughly forty years from now.  As the story says, we can’t afford to have that many people driving: “Researchers said that vehicle miles traveled will increase by more than 30 percent between 2010 and 2030 unless policymakers increase fuel taxes.”

Again according to Wikipedia, the earth’s population in 1800 totaled a little less than 1 billion people.  During the last two hundred years, man’s quality of life endured a downward spiral that was inversely proportional to the horrific 700% population growth.  To illustrate the horror, here are some examples of how average life expectancies from 1800 compare with 2007: Brazil 32/72; China 32/73; Egypt 33/71; France 29/81 (recovering nicely from Napoleon’s little revolution, thank you); India 25/65; Iran 25/71; Kenya 33/54; Russia 32/65; UK 40/79; US 39/78.

Oops, maybe things have actually gotten better with unrestrained industrialization and unrepentant carbon flatulence.  But, back to the new taxes.

Assuming that vehicle emissions pose a lethal threat to humankind’s existence, why not be honest and direct about solving the problem?  Gasoline rationing during WWII was very effective in limiting vehicle use.  Or, how about installing a GPS monitor on every car to ensure that no one exceeds a “travel allowance?”  Heck, if the problem is as bad as the green whackos claim, why not outlaw private automobiles altogether?

Moe Lane at Redstate:

Ace of Spades Headlines has already used the ‘tar, feathers, and pitchforks’ joke, so let me go to my backup response: if the 111th Congress raises the average price of gas to seven bucks a gallon, the major result will be that the 2010 Election Night map will give the impression that the entire country was dipped in raspberry jam.


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