Another rig blew up in the gulf of Mexico. This is not cool at all. But our endless demand for gas demands that we get it at all costs — and cut corners to boot.

I’m unhappy paying what I feel to be an artificially low price for the gas I use. The price doesn’t take into account the environmental damage that it’s acquisition and use causes. Of course that says nothing of the subsidies that the industry as a whole receives.

Besides, most other countries already pay a whole lot more than we do. (With some notable exceptions like Venezuela and Saudi Arabia)

The idea I’ve had for a while is (not surprisingly based on the title of the post) a tax on gas. My idea is to implement it something like this:

  • Year 0-3: No additional tax
  • Year 4-7: Each week tax gas and diesel an additional $0.02 per week. (Or maybe $0.08 per month to make it easier on accountants)

In the end this would wind up with a $4.16 tax on gas. The key is that people know that it’s coming with enough warning to start changing their behavior.

You can even extend the time frame if you want — perhaps $0.01 per week instead for twice the time to make it eight years. This would even take into account the expected life-span of the vehicles on the road.

If a big tax was levied in one fell swoop then everyone would get caught out. People who lived far from where they worked would get hit hard. That’s not fair — at least not right away. But those are the same people that contribute most to the overall consumption of oil!

Last year 26.98 quadrillion BTUs of energy were used in the transportation sector — of that only 6.74 quads were used to move the things around, the rest (20.23 quads) was wasted in heat. Of the petroleum we use 72% goes to transportation. (Source: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory)

Overall there are a couple ways to reduce this:

  • Drive more efficient cars and trucks (less waste)
  • Drive less

Both of these serve to curb the amount of oil we use. If we do both that’s even better of course.

The dials of society are turned by taxes and interest. All you have to do is change what something costs and people will find a new equilibrium. If gas gets more expensive, they’ll either find a way of driving less or find a way to use the gas they buy better. If you give people enough warning that things will change, they have a chance to be proactive and slowly change the way they live.

Problem solved!

Next up: what to do with the taxes collected?

I’d use the taxes to subsidize energy sources that are not as damaging to the environment. This way if someone can make a liquid like the traditional gasoline that cars can run on that’s better overall (i.e. not grain ethanol), they’ll be at a competitive advantage against the giant infrastructure of the petroleum industry. Hence that fuel would be cheaper!

Of course something like this would never get passed. But I guess I can hope, eh?

If it did I for one would be doing fine. I live around 3 miles from work. En drives around 4 each way. We did that on purpose. On top of that for most of the year I ride my motorcycle that gets (shitty for a bike, granted) around 45 mpg. I can Go back and forth more than seven times on one gallon of gas. Not bad.