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How to help the environment without legislating away SUVs(43 posts)

How to help the environment without legislating away SUVsStarliner
Sep 17, 2002 4:53 PM
The latest hand wringing, no-win thread on SUVs has inspired me to submit to the board for review a revolutionary plan which would, among many things, allow people to drive whatever size vehicle they want to drive, while building and providing funding for environmentally focused projects such as expansion and improvement of mass transit, more bike paths, and development of alternative methods of power/transport.

It's very simple in concept and would not require much time, technology, or extravagent cost to set up.

Necessary for this plan to work, every gasoline pump would have to be converted so that the pump would activate only after inserting one's driver license into a credit-card type slot. Information processing would be similar to how credit card information is processed. If one's driver's license is not valid, then the gas pump would not work.

Driver's license pump activation alone could bring about many societal benefits, such as a reduction in unlicensed drivers and the problems they create.

However, the real part of my plan, a multi-tiered price structure for gasoline purchases, is what will create revenue for funding mass transit projects as well as provide market driven changes toward more economical vehicles. (Note: no tiered plan for diesel vehicles, as diesel is essentially a commercial fuel)

Here's how the multi-tiered price plan works. While the gas pump is being activated by a valid driver's license, the central computer also is tabulating the number of gallons purchased by that driver within a one year period. During that period, the first 300 gallons purchased are priced at the standard price levels for that day and that station. Above 300 and below 600 gallons, a $.75 surcharge per gallon is added to the pump price. Beyond 600 gallons, a $1.50 surcharge.

Obviously, people driving large, uneconomical vehicles such as big SUV's would be jumping into the upper tiers pretty quickly; while people who carpool, drive intelligently and economically, would be able to stretch things out.

As far as the auto manufacturers go, they offer what the public wants. This plan would create a market condition which would lead to increased availability of economical vehicles.

And for those die-hards who insist on their big SUV's, well, somebody's got to pay for building the high speed trains and improved mass transit systems.

Comments? Opinions? Critiques?
can I borrow your license? ;-) nmDougSloan
Sep 17, 2002 7:37 PM
hell no, I want to stay out of the second price level (nm)Starliner
Sep 17, 2002 7:49 PM
Like your idea, but in my ideal world...Leisure
Sep 18, 2002 1:28 AM
People would want to drive responsibly from the start and not need any such intervention. They would also be respectful and courteous to each other. Oh well.

The biggest problem with your plan is how so many people wouldn't get it. I've talked with plenty of people at pumps in perfectly polite conversation, and listened to them rant about how awful their gas expenses are and they don't know what to do about it. Somehow or another it never enters their minds that it has something to do with the full-size they're driving. Even saying it straight at them things just don't register.

Don't mean to be fatalistic; a lot of the time it's funny just to see the confused look on their faces.
People will catch on quickly....Starliner
Sep 18, 2002 7:07 AM
The people complaining at the pump don't have any clear incentive or reason to deal with the cost issue on an everyday basis. Sure, they could do something major like trading in their guzzler for something less guzzling.

A tiered price structure would give them an everyday incentive to conserve. Instead of helplessly complaining about it, they'd be more inclined to take action to protect their pocketbook.
One would hope.Leisure
Sep 19, 2002 5:20 AM
I actually agree with your idea here. Sure people would argue with details of implementation, and maybe I would seek something less extreme. Something more along the lines of tiering specifically against net consumption exceeding that of an 18 mpg vehicle averaging 10,000 annual miles; you exceed that consumption and for every gallon after you pay extra. It would give extra incentive for those purchasing gas-guzzlers to remain conscientious of their own consumption, and maybe Detroit would begin thinking about making their full-size vehicles less full-size - and more efficient, something they're used to not addressing.
My problem with this whole idea...TJeanloz
Sep 19, 2002 5:46 AM
How did you determine the politically correct amount of consumption? Everybody here is basing the 'right' amount on how much they drive, and want to punish anybody who drives more than they do. In your model, anybody who has more than a 19 mile commute is punished just for driving to work and back (more than 10,000 miles annually). A huge portion of Americans commute that distance, or farther, and also would like to drive their cars places other than work without paying what amounts to a fine.

I think this system could work- albiet inefficiently- if the tiers were really extreme. Except that we already have such measures in place for the extremes (I had to pay a "gas guzzler" tax when I bought my last car). I maintain that you're better off just raising the tax on gasoline across the board; it is the more efficient solution, and the only argument you have against it is that the tax would effect you, while your proposal conveniently taxes the people that you feel are the culprits.
My problem with this whole idea...Starliner
Sep 19, 2002 8:54 AM
First off, as I said in another reply, where to set the tier levels (in gallons and in taxation amounts) is a matter for debate.

This is not an overnight project - something like this whole scheme is going to take some time to implement. First up is to set up the structure - pumps, computers, programs, management, etc. - and get things up and running lean, mean, well-coordinated and bug free. That may take a year or two. Maybe three. Once operational, the tiered scheme would be phased in over another period of time, with taxation amounts and gallonage levels periodically increasing up to levels hopefully around what I suggested. As you realize, the higher the levels, the more efficiencies will be realized; the more revenue will be collected.

This plan would affect all drivers all the time, providing everybody an incentive to drive wisely and efficiently. Measures such as the "gas guzzler" tax which you mentioned are one-time bitter pills to swallow, therefore do not promote widespread wise and efficient driving habits. That tax only affects people like you who buy gas guzzlers; and still, it clearly didn't keep you from buying your dinosaur.

Finally, with regard to a flat, across the board tax, I repeat what I already stated in another post - such a tax would offer no reward, no incentive, for people to conserve; and would hit poorer drivers the hardest because they would have no way of avoiding the extra tax cost no matter how little they drive.
The tiered tax offers no rewards either,TJeanloz
Sep 19, 2002 9:07 AM
The tiered system doesn't offer a reward for conserving, it enforces a penalty for not conserving to the degree that somebody has decreed is appropriate. A flat tax provides MORE incentive to conserve, because you start feeling the effects of the tax at gallon #1, not gallon #300. If I raise my flat tax to $9/gallon, you can be damn sure that people have an incentive to conserve. And it's a bigger reward than if I say the tax is $5 on each of the first 100 gallons, and $15 thereafter.

The situation here is that you are in an "everybody but me is a polluter" dream world. Everybody should be punished for driving a vehicle that pollutes more than mine, is what you're saying. Your tiered tax implies that consumption of a certain level of gasoline is an absolute necessity, that should not be taxed by the government. I disagree. I say raise the tax fairly for everybody. Gas guzzlers, like myself, are already paying a sum proportional to the amount of gas that we use. My car pollutes more than yours, I pay more for gasoline than you do.
Sep 19, 2002 10:56 AM
You don't know me, you don't know what and how many cars and trucks I own, and how much I drive, yet you have proceeded to dismiss my ideas and intentions in this thread in an uninformed and personally false way bordering on libel. But hey, this is the net, so I ought to expect it.

I've made points several times regarding the flat tax, and what I see wrong with it. You've ignored the point about the effect a flat tax would have with the poor. And I think history contradicts the notion that a flat tax provides a lasting incentive to conserve, not to mention your unsupported contention that it would be MORE of an incentive.

The major price hikes in gasoline that followed the 1973 oil embargo, which one could liken to a flat tax, had a short term effect, but consumption levels soon climbed back up.
I guess what I'm missing...TJeanloz
Sep 19, 2002 11:22 AM
What I don't yet understand is what problem you are trying to solve. My comments that involved "you" should be prefaced to say: "from your comments, I infer this to be your view, if this is not your view, then you are not clearly stating your point in a way that I can understand it, which may be the result of my own idiocy."

I was working on the assumption that you wanted to reduce oil consumption, but I'm not so sure anymore. During the 1970s oil shock- which, I agree, is a good example of a flat tax- didn't that push drivers to more efficient cars? Isn't that when Honda and Toyota really gained critical mass in the United States? Consumption levels soon climbed back up- as prices fell; we're envisioning a tax regime that isn't going to end.

We've both brought up possible effects on the poor, but isn't gasoline consumption largely a luxury commodity anyways? Your tax structure effects a poor person just as much as a rich person, assuming they drive an equal amount, in equally inefficient cars. The implication that only the rich drive pick-up trucks and SUV's is not accurate, as far as I know.

My contention that a flat tax is more incentivized was not unsupported- if I make the tax $10/gallon, you have an incentive from gallon #1 to conserve. Under your regime, you only have an incentive to use less than a set amount- but you draw no difference between using, say 250 gallons and 299 gallons. My structure penalizes you for EVERY SINGLE gallon (or fraction thereof) that you don't conserve.
Effectively, we already have this in place, and we don't care...TJeanloz
Sep 18, 2002 4:15 AM
Isn't this exactly correlating the difference in efficiency. You're just accellerating the costs a bit, but even in the real world, the cost line is upward sloping. If we just thought of things in $/mile, it would work out to be effectively the same.

Take two cases: my mom, in her Honda Civic, which inexplicably gets 45 MPG, or $0.03/mile (assuming gas is $1.50/gallon). Or, me, in my car, which inexplicably gets 9 MPG or $0.66/mile. We're traveling the same distance, but I'm paying 20 times more than she is, for the privilidge of driving my car instead of hers (and conveniently, I'm polluting 20 times more as well). This is already an effective pigou tax on me - except it's not that effective, because I still choose to drive my car. If you want to reach your goal, the answer is easier than your tiered tax; just raise the price of gasoline, and you'll have the same effect, though most analysts believe that you'd need to bring it into the $3-$4/gallon range before you had any impact.

The other difficulty with your tiers is that you have to decide where to set the 'steps'. How do you decide what a reasonable amount of consumption is? I assume your 300 gallons is arbitrary- because I'd go through that in like 3 months.

And finally, as you may know, many municipalities in the West use this system to price water. They have it tiered so that normal household consumption falls well into the first tier, but if you water the lawn twice daily, you face steep rates. They've generally found that the system works - to a degree, and as long as they re-adjust the rates frequently (which the customers aren't too happy about).
Are you serious about how fast you'd consume all that gas?Leisure
Sep 18, 2002 4:24 AM
Just curious, but an off-the-top-of-my-head estimate for my fuel consumption actually IS about 300 gallons anually. (Funny that I've never thought to calculate it out before.)
Yeah, I'd say that's about right,TJeanloz
Sep 18, 2002 4:43 AM
We'll say that between my two cars, I average 13 miles/gallon, 15,000 miles/year = 1,153 gallons/year or 22.2 gallons a weeks; ergo 300 gallons would go 13.5 weeks.
Keep your 9mpg guzzler, then...Starliner
Sep 18, 2002 7:22 AM
Whether you care or not about paying the surcharged rates for your gas is your business. You are free to go ahead and keep driving your guzzler. You will be benefitting society nonetheless, in that people like you are providing needed funds for those projects I mentioned.

As for where to set the steps, that is open for debate. My 300 gallon point was based upon 33.3 mpg @ 10.000 miles per year, a bit harsh but it should be harsh in my opinion. 25mpg @ 400 gallons = 400 gallons; 20mpg @ 500gal = 500 gal. Take your pick.
What you aren't explaining is what this would change...TJeanloz
Sep 18, 2002 7:33 AM
If your goal is to raise money for socially beneficial projects, why not just raise the tax on gasoline across the board? Your assumption is that people need some minimum amount of gasoline, and anything more than your threshold is frivolous, and should be penalized. What you haven't convinced me of, is why there should be an additional penalty, above and beyond that which is already in place.

My question is, why do we need this complicated system? If you want to raise tax revenue and discourage driving, why not just raise the gasoline tax for everybody? Even the 50mpg cars are polluting to some degree.
Sep 18, 2002 7:48 AM
Making gas more expensive has a lot of unintended consequences. If gas costs too much, people buy less of it, lessening the grand scheme of collecting taxes. After all, you can't collect the tax unless people buy the gas. (Unlike the IRS, which can tax you on gains that don't exist. AMT = evil.)

Furthermore, if gas costs too much, people travel less. This means restaurants, amusement parks, museums, motels, hotels, campgrounds, etc. get hit with loss of income, which results in less taxes collected as well (sales taxes, room taxes, etc.).

Finally, if gas becomes more expensive, everything becomes either more expensive or lower quality (traveled on an airline lately?). Now Dominos has to pay the kid who delivers your pizzas more money to offset his additional gas expenses. Dominos may not be able to pass on that additional cost to you, the pizza buyer, because of low margin and high competition. So they either eat it (no pun intended) or they cut costs elsewhere, perhaps using thinner crust or less toppings or lower quality cheese.

There's no free lunch. Economics should not be left to amateurs, such as politicians.
some responses...Starliner
Sep 18, 2002 1:16 PM
as to why not have a flat tax, such a tax would definitely burden poorer drivers more than rich ones, given there would be no way to avoid it through conservation, pooling, taking mass transit, etc. Flat taxes offer no incentives to conserve. It is a crude and dumb approach that would offer little encouragement to be less wasteful.

There's nothing new about tiered pricing. Be it utility rates or cell phone service, it's a fact of life for virtually all of us. Extending the idea to gasoline purchases would not be an earthshaking event.

I don't agree with mr spin's pessimistic assessment of the fallout from such a plan. I would submit the positives would far outshine any negatives.

If people buy less gas, then there is less dependence on foreign oil, and less pressure to dink around in the Middle East. It costs a lot of taxpayer money to protect our oil interests there.

People travelling less? I don't think it would be significant. For a 1000 mile trip at 20mpg, there would be a cost increase of $37.50 in fuel costs between non taxed level and the first tier; a $75 difference between non taxed and second tier. Might make some think twice about taking the SUV, but with all factors considered it likely would be written off as another trip expense.

I can't agree with your link between quality and the price of gasoline. First off, commercial transport of goods is done using diesel fuel, which is not subject to the tiered system. With more localized transportation of goods (Domino's delivery), a few cents might be added to the item. If they decide to lower the quality, however, they'll do it at their own peril, for it'll just create an opportunity for somebody else to step in and offer a higher quality product.

In fact, I think you'll find more, not less, business opportunities open up with a tiered gasoline pricing system.
unfortunately it isn't that simpleColnagoFE
Sep 18, 2002 1:30 PM
oil is only one factor in why we meddle in the mid-east. if we cut our consumption of arab oil to zero tomorrow we'd still have problems there.
that's not a responsemr_spin
Sep 18, 2002 2:02 PM
You have a singular focus here that is obscuring fundamental flaws and realities in your plan. And your response is essentially to say "that's not significant."

First of all, if you start dinging high mileage people using more gas for whatever reason, and then you exclude diesel, a lot of those people will simply switch to diesel cars and SUVs. Diesel isn't just for commercial vehicles. Oh, and diesel comes from oil, too. Plus, there's a lot of small commercial delivery trucks out there that don't run on diesel. Oh well. These guys chose incorrectly, so now they can starve.

Secondly, according to the AAA, when gas prices were running high last summer, recreational travel by car basically stopped. You can pretend that this isn't significant, but it is very significant. It means nobody is staying at the Motel 6 in Needles, California. That means a maid loses her job. That means less income for Motel 6 to be taxed on, less income for the owner/operator to be taxed on, less sales tax paid on things like soap and toilet paper, less room tax, less payroll tax because there are less employees working, and less income tax paid by the out of work employees. It also means nobody is eating at the coffee shop next door, which means...repeat the above. Plus, now unemployment benefits are paid out. Sounds like a net loss all around to me.

As for quality vs. the price of gasoline, I suggest you take a course in economics. Pay attention to the part where they talk about price elasticity. Extra costs have to be paid somehow, and either you (the customer) are going to pay them, or the businessman has to eat the increase and make it up cutting costs somewhere. There's a third alternative where the businessman accepts making less profit, but that isn't likely.

The part about business opportunities opening up with a tiered gasoline pricing system is the funniest part. How could you possibly justify business opportunities opening up by increasing the price of gas? Who is going to be happy about that and decide now is the time to open that business they've always wanted run? The only business that will do well is car dealerships that sell deisel cars. Eventually, Detroit will catch on and convert the entire fleet to deisel, so everyone can belch tons of filth into the air. And we'll use just as much oil as before.
second tryStarliner
Sep 18, 2002 8:32 PM
to paraphrase I think Abe Lincoln,

i You can satisfy some of the people all of the time, or all the people some of the time, but you can never satisfy all the people all the time...

Any big change such as this plan is bound to create difficult situations that have to be overcome. There will definitely be plenty of reshuffling of priorities, plenty of adjustments to be made. In so doing, people's habits may change, and people and companies who have depended on discarded old habits will have to change as well.

With a plan like this, you've got to look at the whole picture in a dynamic, fluid way, rather than statically. The money that may no longer be spent in Needles is not necessarily lost; perhaps it was spent somewhere else; maybe it was invested in something, or used to purchase a product - to the benefit of someone else.

With regard to business opportunities being created, think big. Remember that gas tax money is being accumulated and will be used to fund major, ongoing projects that will open up jobs for many people at many levels. Funding that doesn't exist now. How about a high speed rail line between LA and San Francisco? LA and Vegas? Trains will never be used to take down skyscrapers.

And with regard to diesel, my bet is that its minor role stays minor in the consumer market. As you say it has negatives (smell, smoke) that not everybody would be willing to live with. Spilling diesel fuel on one's hands and clothing just once would be enough reason for some people to give up on it. Diesel's spotty availability is an inconvenience as well.

A killer is the hefty upcharge ($5000) for a diesel engine over standard V-8 truck engines.

No, I think the auto industry will focus instead on bringing out more efficient alternatives to what we have now in the form of hybrids and the like. And in 20 years (what were you doing in 1982?), if planet earth still exists, we'll probably have alternative fuels powering our vehicles.
You STILL haven't explained why a flat tax won't do it...TJeanloz
Sep 19, 2002 4:21 AM
You called the flat, across-the-board tax "crude and dumb", but you didn't support the statement. Is there something inherent that makes a progressive tax better? From what I can tell, you want to:

1. Raise the price of gasoline to discourage driving.
2. Raise tax revenues to go to public works projects.

We'll ignore, for the moment, the fact that if you raise taxes indefinitely, there will be a point at which actual tax receipts fall. I don't see which one of the above isn't accomplished by just raising the tax on gasoline. And it does prevent an arbitrage scenario, which I can assure you would develop- my sister has no car, but she does have a license; so after I reach my allotment, I'm just going to use her license to keep my prices low.

And lastly, you ignore the reality of who this system will hurt the most- those at the lowest end of the income spectrum, who can ill afford a new, more efficient car. What do you do for the guy who's driving a rusted-out 1984 Crown Victoria, which is all he can afford, but quickly finds himself unable to pay for gasoline? I suppose those people aren't good enough to have the priviledge of driving?
There are now plenty of old, cheap, import beater cars that can be had under a grand that'll easily net 30 mpg or more. We've had high-mileage Civics and Corollas for what, twenty years now? My dad's '79 Datsun B210 netted 40 mpg before he thankfully departed with it two years ago, and took on what had formerly been my '86 Suburu GL that got the same mileage. Any of those will be cheaper to buy and maintain than the Crown Vic.Leisure
Sep 19, 2002 4:57 AM
Oh shit, it did it again! Let's see if it'll work this time...Leisure
Sep 19, 2002 4:59 AM
There are now plenty of old, cheap, import beater cars that can be had under a grand that'll easily net 30 mpg or more. We've had high-mileage Civics and Corollas for what, twenty years now? My dad's '79 Datsun B210 netted 40 mpg before he thankfully departed with it two years ago, and took on what had formerly been my '86 Suburu GL that got the same mileage. Any of those will be cheaper to buy and maintain than the Crown Vic.

Though they'll still be rusted out.
I repeat....Starliner
Sep 19, 2002 9:37 AM
A flat tax would hurt the poor the most and the rich the least. It provides no more rewards and incentives for promoting efficient driving habits than what we have at present. What are your comments on these two points?

"Crude and dumb".... an across-the-board tax on gasoline doesn't discriminate between efficient drivers and less-efficient drivers; therefore it doesn't offer rewards for efficiency and penalties for inefficiency. Given a choice, I would like to have a fighting chance to pay less money to the government, and be rewarded for using my intelligence and resourcefulness to achieve those savings.

There is nothing intelligent about a flat tax plan, no choice. Its time was in the 20th century past; it is too "Big Brother". Today's technology allow us the opportunity to adopt more sophisticated and intelligent methods of managing things.

Yes, there will be cases of fraud like the scenario you mentioned, and there will be penalties for that fraud such as banishment to the third tier for your future gas purchases if you get caught. Just make sure your sister is not on vacation in Europe when you use her license to buy gas down at the corner station.

Lastly, as for poor guy with the Crown Vicky, not so fast. Between the time that the plan is adopted and up to when the whole system is operational, that car probably will be scrapped and replaced with a more fuel efficient junker.
A flat tax is too big brother?TJeanloz
Sep 19, 2002 10:18 AM
I wouldn't argue this, but it's getting entertaining. A flat tax is big-brotherish, and yet a tiered system, by which the government monitors when, where, and how much fuel you purchase is not? There is a very simple way to not pay any gasoline tax under a flat regime: don't buy any gasoline. It seems like not buying gas is conserving. You've saved yourself the tax and the environment at the same time!

The case of my sister is not fraud. Doesn't she have equal right to purchase her $300 of gasoline and give them to me? Is it now going to be illegal to buy and sell gasoline?

As I've said all along, the problem with the system is not in the mechanics of it- which could work- the inefficiency lies in dictating what the 'ideal' gasoline consumption is. I argue that the ideal gasoline consumption is 0; and we should tax it at $10/gallon to achieve this. Isn't using 0 gallons of gasoline better than 300 gallons?
welcome to the black marketmr_spin
Sep 19, 2002 9:05 AM
A good way to make money on this scheme is to find people who rarely drive, or even better, people who drive but are in the same family sharing a car. Have a couple of kids of driving age? Any grandparents or in-laws living with you?

Drive your mini tanker truck (which runs on diesel, of course) down to the local gas station and buy up the maximum allotment for these people. Then resell the gas to people on the black market. As long as you charge less than the penalized price, you make money and buyers save money.

You still have your personal allotment which you can use for your personal car and/or a shared car.

Sounds like a good business opportunity to me! I guess that's what you meant when you said business opportunities would open up.
I think TJ is rightDougSloan
Sep 18, 2002 6:09 AM
I can speak from personal experience. I owned a Suburban,which got about 10 mpg city and 15 mpg, at best, highway. I'm a lead foot, which doesn't help. When gas got to around $2 a gallon here a few years ago, combined with excessive maintenance and tire costs for the thing, I sold it and bought a small, much more efficient Japanese made SUV. Now I get about 50% better mileage and almost zero maintenance costs.

The power of the market is very real. While this certainly won't be universal, there will be a large segment of the population that would be influenced by higher prices. If it can happen to me, I guarantee lots of others would do the same.

It doesn't take an artifical graduated scheme to make it work, but even so, there is an easier way to do it. You tax gasoline, but then give a tax deduction for the first so many dollars of tax, and not for the part above that -- or even graduate it. While the tax code does not need to be more complex, that's a whole lot better than mandating the infrastructure required for the at the pump scheme.

Sounds cumbersome, DougStarliner
Sep 18, 2002 7:28 AM
My plan is automatic and instantaneous. It also creates an incentive to conserve. How would your deduction scheme keep track of gas purchases? Would one need an accountant to help out? Would it offer the everyday incentive to conserve that a tiered structure would provide?
From the Radical Left, I say ENCOURAGE consumption.scottfree
Sep 18, 2002 7:47 AM
Cut taxes. Get rid of mandated mileage requirements. Buy and drive SUVs or untuned 1972 Ford LTDs with the State Police package 400 cid 4 bbl engine.

Man, the tree huggers got it wrong. Usual mush-headed liberal thinking.

Listen, my brothers & sisters! Sooner we burn up all the gasoline, the sooner we'll be rid of the scourge of internal combustion. As the rightists on this board insist, the market does work, and sane alternatives will be developed only when we look down the barrel of running out.
I'm laughing with you here, but before the joke misleads anyone:Leisure
Sep 19, 2002 4:45 AM
Last I heard, we've expended only half of the total crude oil in the Middle East. We still have plenty other sources of crude oil worldwide when the Middle East has been depleted, and there are plenty of other sources for hydrocarbons in general after that. We're already worried about the global warming that's continuing to develop over our current rate of conumption which has taken several decades. Everyone outside of academia is still thinking we haven't proven that global warming is happening, but it is. It's been proven three different ways, in fact: measuring atmospheric temperatures, ocean levels, and finally geothermal measurements. They all say the Earth had warmed about 1.7 Celsius over the last hundred years. I've seen the comparative graphs, they show the same oscillations at the same time-intervals--the agreement is kind of depressing. And while 1.7 Celsius is livable, things can get worse.

What educated envirnmentalists are really worried about is when fuel consumption actually reaches the levels you're talking about. More and more third world nations will be consuming at the per-capita rates that we are, and population growth in these nations is not tapering. Who knows what we can expect really; more fatalistic predictions say CO2 levels could rise high enough to raise global temperatures 10 Celsius, or 18 Fahrenheit. Even I think these are extreme worst-case estimates; first off, they assume that Americans will continue to consume more and more per-capita as they have recently, mostly in transportation with horribly inefficient vehicles. They're effectively forcasting that we'll have large percentages of people driving semi-sized SUVs and trucks that net 5-8 mpg and that the rest of the world will continue to follow. I, however, think this is only a temporary trend, and from what I've read automotive market analysts think the same thing. Therefore I would hope the real global warming we're expecting would be less than half of that above, something less than 5 Celsius, or 10 Fahrenheit.

Complicating the problem is the delayed-effect we see in global warming, as CO2 released into the atmosphere today doesn't immediately contribute to warming; it takes decades before it diffuses evenly through the atmosphere where we see the full effect. So if we stopped all hydrocarbon consumption tomorrow, the Earth would continue to warm for years or decades. And once that happens, the effects will endure well past any of our lifetimes; the half-life of a CO2 molecule in our atmosphere is calculated at around 150 years, and there doesn't seem to be any fast-acting (relatively speaking, over several decades) natural biological forces to counteract that if CO2 levels continue to rise.
this would penalize high milage drivers unfairlyColnagoFE
Sep 18, 2002 6:57 AM
we already have lots of tax built into gas prices. what you propose is yet another tax on those who use more gas--the very people that already pay more tax because they buy more gas. also heavier vehicles are more expensive to register so they are paying more already. i'm sure semi drivers would really hate your solutions as they probably pay more taxes than anyone in this regard.
Sort of like how high income people are penalized unfairly (nm)TJeanloz
Sep 18, 2002 7:12 AM
High income people would probably not change their habitsColnagoFE
Sep 18, 2002 11:01 AM
My guess is that high income people would not change their driving habits because gas cost a bit more. They might compain but would probably just pay it. Hurt most by this tax would be the high milage lower/middle class person who needs to drive a non-diesel vehicle (assuming as you said diesel is exempt) for work or commuting to work purposes.
matter of degreeDougSloan
Sep 18, 2002 12:07 PM
Sure, Bill Gates class of people probably won't change anything. A guy making even a hundred grand a year might very well, though. Since there are so very few truly wealthy people, considering the amount of gasoline we are talking about here, it wouldn't matter much, anyway. While there would be no universal reaction, I'd bet the likelihood is that a fair number of even moderate to high income people will not want to spend excessive portions of their income on gasoline, when it could be spent on other things (like bike stuff).

While in law school I drive a Chevy Sprint, a 3 cylinder 55 horsepower car that weighed 1500 pounds. It worked great, and got 50 mpg city and about 60 highway. Other than safety, lots of people could drive those and save lots of gas. No one who makes a million dollars a year is going to, though.

Wealthy, for the most part, use a disproportionate amount of lots of things; that's reality. Whether is be land, fuel, toys, travel, whatever, if they have more money they will likely spend more on stuff. I don't see any way around that, and would not want to -- for it keeps the rest of us employed!

High income people would not change - let them pay, thenStarliner
Sep 18, 2002 1:40 PM
The way it is now, bad driving habits offer no payoff to society. With a tiered system, bad driving habits would be taxed. So, let the rich drive their Expeditions - their expression of freedom is to our benefit.

I include myself in the middle class portion of people hit hardest, at 15,000 - 20,000 miles a year, much for my work. It's just going to have to be another business expense.

Commuters will have to search for ways to cope -carpooling, buying a more economical car, using mass transportation (which will expand and improve over time thanks to the tax monies collected). I envision small mom-and-pop chauffeur/transportation services being created to address some of these needs.
How is using more gas neccesarily bad driving habits?ColnagoFE
Sep 18, 2002 2:03 PM
Maybe their job or circumstance causes them to drive the Honda Civic WAY more than the normal person. They are driving a car that uses less gas per mile, but still using more gas than the average person--thus they are taxed the same as a SUV owner who drives less but uses the same amount of gas. So now you are back to making SUVs higher priced than an ecomomical car to give those gas wasters an economic hit--oh WAIT! They already are more expensive and people are still buying them! I'd say you'd have the same situation with gas.
How is using more gas neccesarily bad driving habits?Starliner
Sep 18, 2002 3:48 PM
I used the term "bad driving habits" referring to rich people who you suggested wouldn't change their driving habits. "Bad" was my word, perhaps I should have been more specific in my choice of word; I used it as a one-word description of inefficient driving habits, not dangerous ones.

If rich people drive Civics, then I wouldn't describe their habits as "bad" in the way I used the term.

If I read your example correctly, the Civic driver's cost per mile is far less than the SUV owner's cost per mile. If they buy the same amount of gallons, their total cash outlay is the same, but the Civic driver got a lot more driving done than the SUV owner.

So I am not sure of your point - getting rid of SUV's is not this plan's objective. What the plan will do, however, is create a market condition in which high fuel economy would be a more important factor than it is now. If that brings about a reduction in sales of SUV's, then so be it. I would predict that the gas plan would reduce the market for monster SUV's, while the market for smaller ones like the Saturn VUE, Ford Escape, etc. would initially grow as the slack is taken up. Plus, many more hybrids would likely blossom onto the marketplace - including SUV hybrids.
Semi drivers would be exemptStarliner
Sep 18, 2002 7:33 AM
The tiered pricing is for gasoline only - not diesel which is basically a commercial fuel.
what about the incentive side?DougSloan
Sep 18, 2002 1:54 PM
While electrical power has it's problems, too, you could help a lot by offering a 100% tax credit, regardless of other tax issues (e.g., AMT), for electric vehicles. Who wouldn't buy one? Make the credit apply over the depreciable life of the car. This motivates inventors and manufacturers, too. Give them some credits.

There must be lots of other potential solutions based on incentives. Isn't anyone creative enough to come up with some?

how are you going to replace the lost tax revenue? (nm)Starliner
Sep 18, 2002 8:40 PM
less costDougSloan
Sep 19, 2002 6:17 AM
I thought the point was the using foreign oil costs us lots of money? If we don't need as much, then we save money, right? It may not be dollar for dollar at first, but at some point it may.

What are the numbers?Turtleherder
Sep 19, 2002 7:42 AM
I did a little number crunching with some assumed values. $1.40 per gallon for gas, driving 12,000 miles a year, then average the highway and city mileage; suv, 17.5; small car, 25; tiny car, 35. Under the tiered system the suv costs $1,314 a year, the car $807 and the tiny car $508. If the family can already afford the $30,000 to $40,000 suv do you think that soccer mom is going to risk the kids for $507 a year or $42 a month? I don't think that it will lead to real conservation, just more tax revenue. In my opinion the real problem is in the old untuned clunker. The problem is emissions, in other words not how much gas is burned but how efficiently it is burned. If you look at the data on emissions on new cars, even the poor mileage suvs they are infinitely better than small car were 15 or 20 years ago. The best way to fight emissions is to get rid of the old polluters.