Saturday, December 27, 2008
Editorial in the New York Times: The Gas Tax:
There are several ways to tax gas. One would be to devise a variable consumption tax in such a way that a gallon of unleaded gasoline at the pump would never go below a floor of $4 or $5 (in 2008 dollars), fluctuating to accommodate changing oil prices and other costs. Robert Lawrence, an economist at Harvard, proposes a variable tariff on imported oil to achieve the same effect and also to stimulate the development of domestic energy sources. In both cases, the fuel taxes could be offset with tax credits to protect vulnerable segments of the population.
While oil prices are all but sure to rise again as the world emerges from recession, further tempering consumption with a gas tax would both slow the rise in the price of crude and steer more revenue from energy consumption to the United States budget, rather than that of oil-exporting countries.
A bitter recession is not the most opportune time to ratchet up the price of energy. But if the Obama administration is to meet its twin objectives of reducing the nation’s dependence on foreign oil and cutting its emissions of greenhouse gases, it needs to start thinking now about mechanisms to curb the nation’s demand for energy when the economy emerges from recession in the future.
This also would serve as a signal to American automakers and American drivers that the era of cheap gasoline is not going to last.