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I Support Higher Gas Prices at the Pump by Raising the Federal Excise Tax on Gasoline

Posted by Digger Cartwright
Digger Cartwright
Robert “Digger” Cartwright is the author of several mystery stories, teleplays, and novels including The Versa...
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on Saturday, 28 July 2012
in Digger Cartwright

I Support Higher Gas Prices at the Pump by Raising the Federal Excise Tax on Gasoline

That’s right.  I support higher gas prices for consumers at the pump.  Let’s get gas prices up there to about $8 per gallon by adding on some massive taxes to gasoline.  I’m talking about gas prices for consumers, the individuals, not the shipping companies.  Quite simply, if you can’t afford the gas, don’t drive.  Or maybe you could carpool or use public transportation or how about walk.

I’m tired of people whining about gas prices.  If you don’t want to pay for gas, don’t buy it.  Stop driving as much.  Most individuals drive a lot more than is necessary to get to and from work.  They take a joy ride to go shopping today then again tomorrow then the next day.  They go out to the movies or run the kids all around town to soccer or baseball or football practice or dance or whatever.  In general, people do a lot of unnecessary running around.  I do it too.

This is what gets me.  No one wants to make any sacrifices in life.  Let’s say gas goes up ten cents per gallon.  If you have a twenty gallon tank, it’s going to cost you an extra $2 each time you fill up.  Maybe you should give up one of those Starbucks’ lattes before you complain about the increase in gas prices.  Or maybe you should give up the manicure or the trip to the spa.  I know a lot of people in the service industry who are always complaining about how high gas prices hurt them, yet every time you turn around they’re out at the bar drinking up a storm.  Maybe you shouldn’t be spending your money on liquor or cigarettes or shooting pool if you can’t afford the gas or think prices are too high.  When cigarette prices go up, people complain but they don’t stop smoking.  When soda prices go up, people don’t stop drinking Coke or Pepsi.

Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of negatives to higher gas prices, mainly from an economic perspective.  Let’s just say that we only have higher gas prices for individual consumers at the pump—not the diesel prices that the trucking industry uses—just the prices for the average guy like me and you.  Let’s consider the positive side to higher gas prices.

·         With high gas prices, a lot of people just won’t be able to afford to drive anymore.  There is an inverse relationship between gas prices and vehicle miles traveled.  As gas prices increase, vehicle miles traveled decreases.  According to the Federal Highway Administration, the average price of gas in 2011 was $3.52 (regular grade) per gallon as compared to $2.78 in 2010.  Total vehicle miles traveled nationwide in 2011 decreased by about 1.2% compared to 2010.  So, for each 10% increase in gas prices, vehicle miles traveled decreases by 0.5%. 


·         We all know that there are a lot of people out of the over 200 million people who are currently driving that shouldn’t be driving, for whatever reason.  These are the people who are trying to put on makeup while they’re driving, the kids trying to impress their friends by driving recklessly, the people who can’t afford both gas and their alcohol, the people who can’t wait until they get to their destination to text.  Higher gas prices are going to take a large swathe of these people out of the driving population.  Think the roads will be safer if these people aren’t on it?  


·         With fewer drivers on the road, we’ll be releasing less CO2 into the environment.  Americans use about 400 million gallons of gasoline each and every day.  CO2 emissions are about 1 million tons per day.  Even a small reduction in the amount of gasoline burned each day will reduce the amount of pollution.  In addition, about 5% of particles from tires as they wear on the road are released into the air as pollutants.  Ultimately, these tires end up in landfills at the end of thir useful lives.  Not only are these bad for the environment, they’re bad for your health.  Does anyone object to cleaner air and a cleaner environment?


·         With fewer drivers on the roads, there would likely be fewer accidents.  There are about 11 million motor vehicle accidents each year resulting in 30,000-40,000 deaths.  Will fewer drivers on the road save lives?  Yes.  In addition, these accidents cost over a quarter of a billion dollars each year.  Will fewer accidents lower insurance payouts?  Yes.  Will fewer accidents reduce the number of lawsuits in the courts?  Yes.  Think accidents only cost those parties involved in the accident?  Think again.  Who pays for this?  Everyone.  If you have insurance, you pay for it.  If you pay taxes, you pay for it.  If you have employees, you pay for it.  If you buy goods and services, you pay for it.  You may not pay for it directly, but you pay for it one way or another.  So ultimately, fewer drivers on the road will save each and every one of us money.


·         As gasoline prices increase, there is a direct relationship with the increase in public transit ridership.  When gas prices spiked back in 2008, exceeding $4 per gallon, public transit saw quarterly increases in ridership of anywhere between 5-7%.  Something like 80% of public transit systems saw an increase in ridership in 2008, when gas prices spiked, and as a result, nearly half of them increased the frequency of their service while about one-third expanded service to new areas.  Obviously, this spike in gas prices and the accompanying increase in ridership were a financial windfall for the public transit agencies and systems.  Sustained increases in ridership would stabilize the finances of these systems and allow for expansion of services.  Many places desperately need expanded public transit services.  High gas prices=higher ridership=more money for expansion=more access to more riders. 


·    Here’s a real simple one to understand:  Fewer Drivers on the Road=Less Demand for Gasoline=Less Demand for Foreign Oil…Got that? 

As I said before, we best accomplish higher gas prices by adding massive taxes to the per gallon cost of gasoline.  Right now, the federal excise tax on gasoline is only 18.4 cents per gallon.  The US consumes about 140 billion gallons of gasoline each year.  At that rate, the federal government makes about $26 billion annually from the gasoline tax (not including what state and local governments make).  Let’s say we added on $1.316 per gallon to the gasoline tax, so we’re up to $1.50 per gallon just in the federal tax.  Now, it would be nice to think that the federal government would be making over $210 billion annually from this, but realistically, consumption is going to drop dramatically if this happened.  Even so, let’s say consumption dropped to 100 billion gallons annually.  The federal government would make about $150 billion annually.  Think that extra money could go to stabilizing the Social Security Trust Fund and Medicare?  How about paying down the national debt?

Look, higher gas prices would cause a lot of people a lot of pain, but it may just cause them to change their driving behaviors.  Let’s just recap a few of the benefits of the higher gas prices that result in fewer drivers on the road.

Fewer Drivers=Fewer Accidents

Fewer Drivers=Less Pollution

Fewer Drivers=Boost for Public Transit

Fewer Drivers=Less Dependence on Foreign Oil

Additionally, the increase in the federal gas tax could provide much needed additional funds that could be used to shore up Social Security, Medicare, build new roads, invest in public transit, pay down our national debt, etc.  Ultimately, we’d see a massive increase in public transit services and ridership, but any increases in public transit services and increases in ridership would necessitate a fundamental shift in behavior of the driving public.  Yes, it might be an inconvenience for some who are used to getting up and driving wherever they want and whenever they want.  Sometimes, we have to make sacrifices, particularly if you can’t afford something.

Higher gas prices wouldn’t be easy for anyone, but it would force consumers to make some difficult choices and sacrifices.  We, as a society, have become too spoiled.  We’re used to relatively low gas prices and people get all pissed off when gas prices go up.  I don’t hear too many people complaining that the price of soda in the machine increased from $1.00 to $1.25.

This whole discussion is pretty satirical.  We’re not going to increase the gas tax that much.  But we have a major problem in this country.  We consume way too much gasoline!  It’s just a fact.  There are a lot of problems that come from our excessive consumption of gasoline.  If we want to end our addiction to foreign oil and lower gas prices, there’s a simple solution…DRIVE LESS.  Not only does driving less help reduce our dependence on foreign oil, there are a lot of other benefits that I’ve enumerated in this article. 

I recognize that changing a behavior that is so engrained in our lives is a highly difficult task.  Most people don’t want to make sacrifices.  So, about this?  Start a “No Drive Day” each month.  Maybe it’s one Saturday or Sunday or your day off.  Instead of getting in your car and running to the mall or the beach or a friend’s house, how about walking or biking or taking public transit on just one day per month?  If everyone did that, we’d reduce gasoline consumption by about 400 million gallons per month or nearly 5 billion gallons per year.  Just think if we all sacrificed driving one day each week…that equates to an annual reduction of about 21 billion gallons of gasoline.  Can anyone argue that we wouldn’t be better off if we consumed less?




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