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Simple, Maybe not Easy

People make the right choices when they have the right incentives and they can do what they say they cannot.   According to articles I read, Americans drove 112 billion FEWER miles over the past thirteen months.  This is way higher than the previous biggest drop of 49.9 billion miles in the 1970s.  The drops in driving are across the U.S., with Rhode Island, Utah and Vermont the top three. Wide open Utah has little in common with compact Rhode Island. The drop is rural and urban.

Below is a picture I took in Germany.  English is not their native language, but I don't think this is coincidence.

Car in Frankfurt

Gas consumption drops when the price rises.  All the rules, CAFÉ standards and exhortations are mostly just feel good palliatives, analogous to all those fad diets beloved by fat people and largely ineffective.  Solutions are simple, just not easy. Higher gas prices lead to less driving. Traffic and parking problems help in the long run. People make logical decisions. When driving in cheap and easy, they drive more.  When conditions change, they do too. Bad economic conditions are evidently extending the demand drop for gasoline. Simple, but not easy - there is no painless way to achieve change.  

And we do need to change. The environmental effects of carbon consumption are bad enough, but we also have the geopolitical considerations. Most of the easily exported oil is under or near countries that are unstable or run by despots and tyrants.    

Anyway, the continuing drop in driving and related drop in oil consumption is a bit of good news, but we have been in this place before.  This time we should do the right thing and get the incentives right.  The time to raise taxes on oil is when prices are low.  I have written about these things many times before.  When gas prices were high, I wrote that they would drop again and that we should raise taxes on oil when they did. The time is now.


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Comments

Jack,

It seems there are two states testing an alternative means of taxing fuel. Oregon is testing a "mileage" use tax. I don't know much of the details but at the "other" blog we know of I got into a discussion with someone that felt that these taxes were a punishment for those that had conserved fuel over the last year.
Truly I just don't know where people get their ideas.

Rocky
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IMO the best way to get conservation is a simple carbon tax. That covers all the bases and it leaves it to people to conserve, improve etc any way they want. Everything else becomes an argument and the most annoying or politicallly powerful (usually the same people) get their way.

The mileage use tax is actually not part of a conservation stragegy, since the most efficient hybrid and the biggest SUV pay the same per mile. As I understand it, The Oregon plan (IMO) seems more related to percieved fairness and the desire to raise revenue than to environment.

I miss writing for the other blog and glad that you still look at this one sometimes.

Jack,

I visit here, as I did when you were in Iraq, at least once a week, and I always read all that I have missed in the interim.
I enjoy your writing, what can I say?

Btw, my understanding is that the Oregon plan was intended to replace the gas tax, not just to suplement it.

Rocky
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I don't know the details re the Oregon plan. I thought it was just in the proposal stage. I think it would be a bad idea if it replaces the gas tax, since that would lower the price of gas and to some extent at least reduce the incentive to save fuel.

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