Thursday, May 21, 2009

$4 Gas Tax

In Congress right now there is a bill aiming to implement a cap-and-trade system on carbon emissions. Paul Krugman is in favor of the bill. I am not. However, Paul Krugman is really smart. So, maybe if you are trying to form an opinion on the issue, I would go with a Nobel laureate over some husband of a blogger. Nevertheless, I would like to make an argument against such environmental policies that does not involve saying simply that global warming doesn't exist.

Other such environmental policies include another bill that is being sponsored by President Obama that is in favor of raising the MPG limits on the car industry.

My criticism is that both of these is that they are large governmetal regulations with only modest potential at solving the big picture problems. They both only help to improve the global climate change issue, which, as important as it may be, is actually interlocked with many other problems. These problems are so interlocked that it would be inefficient to try and deal with them as if they were isolated.

Regardlessly, there are now two regulations on the table that are trying to deal with just one facet of a conglomeration of problems.

What conglomeration am I talking about?

Well, I can think of 5 big problems that have a common root:

1. Global Warming
2. Petro-dictators: Iran, Russia, and Venezuela
3. The slump in American jobs.
4. The death of the downtown in America
5. Obesity

The common root is gasoline. All of these problems are exascerbated by the use of gasoline.

I definitely did not come up with this idea on my own. I was greatly helped by Tom Friedman. Last summer, when gas was sky high, he could not have been happier. He was happy to see that they alternative fuel methods had a fighting chance. He was happy to see that politicians were begining to see the problem with petro-politics--especially as Russia invaded Georgia--as more serious. (By the way, Friedman did not include numbers 4 and 5 on his analysis).

However, when gasoline is lower, people drive more and get fatter. They drive away from downtown. They buy foreign goods that are no longer as expensive to ship. They make American alternative energy unviable. They help to fuel dictators and jeopardize our climate.

I know because I did. It might be sad story, but it is also a rational story.

What we need to change this behavior is not a burst of goodwill or a drenching of government regulations. Instead, the encompassing solution is a systemic solution: Let people choose, but just stack the options in favor of the socially optimal outcome.

Thus, the $4 gas tax.

I know it is unpolitical but our President has a ton of political capital. (You would just think that he would use it on something like this instead of closing an island without a plan.)


Jenny said...

Is "regardlessly" a word?

Sarah Orme said...

so interesting...i felt like i was reading a published article. Great insight and writing style!

Anderson., M.N. said...

Yes. I think so.

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