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View Diary: 25% reduction in US oil imports, no new technology. (82 comments)

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  •  Tax the cars, not the gas (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    michael1104, DBunn, Vladislaw

    I'm just repeating this idea from the Energize America project elsewhere on DKos.  Tax the least fuel-efficient cars on the road, and use the money to give a tax break on the most fuel-efficient cars.  Work it into the sticker price, so the consumer isn't even thinking about taxes; they just see that Hummers got really expensive, and Priuses got cheap.

    It has the same effects as your gas tax, with additional benefits:

    1. It's scalable.  No matter how high the average fuel efficiency goes, we're taxing the cars on the bottom, so it constantly drives mpg up.
    1. It doesn't hurt the poor, and it doesn't hurt business.  If you're poor, you're buying a used car - and the previous owner bought a more fuel efficient model because of the tax break.  And if you're a business, buying the most fuel-efficient truck now gives you savings at the dealer and at the pump.
    1. It isn't political suicide.  Instead of raising taxes on everyone in America, you're pushing a break-even proposition that ends up saving everyone money in reduced fuel costs.
    1. It helps the economy, not hurts it.  (see #3)

    "When three wolves and a sheep decide who to eat for lunch, that's not democracy." - John Adams

    by schroeder on Thu Dec 11, 2008 at 10:17:16 AM PST

    •  Cool (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      NRG Guy

      Influencing the purchase price of new vehicles is a no brainer-- now that you mention it (heh). I see how it acts to drive up fuel efficiency year after year, with no upper limit.

      IMHO we still need a tax on gas at the pump, though. There have to be disincentives for using more gas no matter how efficient the vehicle, and a contribution to the public good for doing so despite disincentives.

      To avoid hurting low income people who have no choice but to drive, return the amount of the tax for a typical year of driving via some other mechanism, such as a refundable tax credit. This keeps the gas tax revnue-neutral for people at every income level, while retaining the disincentive for using gas.

      •  That seems overly complicated (0+ / 0-)

        It's a good idea in theory, but in practice, it's a textbook example of why Democrats have trouble selling our ideas.  Think about how Mr. and Mrs. America will react to the following two pitches:

        A) We want to make it cheaper for everyone to buy... a new car!!!

        B) We want to raise your taxes!  And then we will develop an incredibly complicated system to determine who's low-income enough, and who drives enough, to get a tax credit that you get after the fact, and it'll be based on a "typical" year of driving, so if you have a long commute, you get screwed.

        Both ideas accomplish the same general goal - one's a much easier sell.  Guess which one has a better chance at getting through Congress and actually affecting Americans.

        There have to be disincentives for using more gas no matter how efficient the vehicle

        But pushing fuel-efficient vehicles does use less gas, and if we keep raising fuel standards, eventually the automakers reach the limit of how much milage you can drain from a gallon of gas, and their only move is to make purely electric cars (or hydrogen, or some other thing).  

        "Those of you inclined to worry have the widest selection in history." - Mark Twain

        by schroeder on Sun Dec 14, 2008 at 08:24:02 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Yes (0+ / 0-)

          ... if you have a long commute, you get screwed.

          Indeed. That long commute is "screwing" everybody in America, including those who walk or bike to work. It's spewing extra CO2, driving up the cost of gas for everyone else, and shipping US dollars out of our economy. Despite these antisocial consequences, for many years we have effectively encouraged this egregious behavior with a variety of subsidies. Now, we're putting a modest disincentive in place, in the form of a small contribution to the general good, which we will use to develop renewable energy sources, build mass transit systems, and perhaps encourage economic development closer to your home so you don't have to commute so far.

          Nothing complicated about it.

          •  It's not about what's fair (0+ / 0-)

            If we want results, we have to think about what the public will support.  And Americans do not like admitting to wrongdoing, or especially being punished for that wrongdoing.  It's the same reason you'll never see Cheney and Rumsfelt in The Hague, where they belong.

            "Those of you inclined to worry have the widest selection in history." - Mark Twain

            by schroeder on Sun Dec 14, 2008 at 09:25:02 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  What the public will support (0+ / 0-)

              Where I live, gas prices got above $4.50/gal during the summer. Last week, I filled my tank at $1.67/gal-- almost 2/3 below the well-remembered high point.

              There was grumbling as prices rose through the 3-dollar range. When they passed $4, there was real concern. When they zoomed past $4.50, there was rage and outright panic.

              I think this is the political moment when people are ready to support measures that will reduce and stabilize transportation costs in the long run. We could add 25 or 50 cents to the price of a gallon and still not be anywhere near where we were just 6 months ago. If we can communicate why this is being done, and link the gas tax to tangible, common sense programs that will break our downward spiral, I think people will be very supportive.

    •  And if you're a business (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      senilebiker, Vladislaw

      and you have to buy a massive diesel for multi-ton towing and hauling, you're going to write the cost of the truck off anyway. Since those things tend to last forever, there will be an ample used market for people who need that capability but not anywhere near often enough to justify the sticker price for a new one.

      Also, any plan that tends this way has to have the longer term goal of weaning us off cars to the extent possible and moving the country to mass transportation, again to the extent possible. It will take as long as it takes, but the time to start is now.

      No laws but Liberty. No king but Conscience.

      by oldjohnbrown on Thu Dec 11, 2008 at 11:43:06 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Business is a separate issue (0+ / 0-)

        Different solution for business, and again, I'm taking this from the Energize America plan.  The biggest purchaser of commercial vehicles in the world is the United States Government.  If the Gov't starts buying the most fuel-efficient vehicles possible, in every instance, it suddenly becomes a lot more profitable to build more fuel-efficient vehicles.  If the gov't stops buying a gas-guzzling model of truck, that's a big chunk of the market that goes away, and suddenly it's not worth GM's while (or whoever's) to manufacture the gas-guzzler.  Meanwhile, demand's gone up for the fuel-efficient model, so it behooves them to keep making more of that one, and develop a still-more fuel-efficient one before Chrysler does and gets that contract next time around.

        "Those of you inclined to worry have the widest selection in history." - Mark Twain

        by schroeder on Sun Dec 14, 2008 at 09:22:07 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

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