Thursday, August 18, 2005

Utopia via gas tax

From the SF Chronicle:
Facing Our Energy Dependency
Rising gasoline prices? Terrific! Let's raise them some more
Dave Richards
...What if we, as Californians, put a huge tax on gasoline, and the federal government followed suit, and so did all the other states? I mean a significant tax, say $6 or $7 a gallon. Make gasoline cost $10 a gallon at the pump...

...The effect on our neighborhoods? Think about it. We won't drive to Costco or WalMart when we can walk down to the corner store for some milk and eggs and cookies. That neighborhood movie theater, run down or showing vintage films, suddenly sounds like a fun date, much more attractive than the multiplex in some faraway mall. Suddenly, we walk places we never would have, our health improves, we lose weight and we meet our neighbors and get to know them, because they are out walking to the neighborhood grocery as well. Instead of driving miles for dinner, inviting your neighbors over suddenly sounds way more affordable, and everyone walks home.
The benefits of higher gas taxes would certainly outweigh the negative effects, but this is a bit much. Richards makes the best part of his argument at the end of the article: rising gas prices and their effects on gas-dependent habits are inevitable; if we raise taxes ahead of them, we could smooth the transition while funding government programs rather than oil companies.
But we will be paying 8 or 10 bucks a gallon soon enough, much sooner than you might want to believe. The question is whether we want to pay ourselves or Exxon / Unocal / Shell / OPEC / fill-in-the-blank. The plan to become less dependent on gasoline, to remove the rope around our neck held by the oil- rich companies and countries, must be authored by ourselves, and waiting until the price of gas is $10 a gallon makes less sense than collecting that money now, and building a society where we know our neighbors and walk to the store, just as we did way back when.


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