talk of a gas tax seems to be going mainstream

Over the past few years, we’ve talked quite a bit here on this site about the need for a significant gas tax that would both influence consumer behavior, and fund mass transportation projects. Well, it seems as though the conversation has finally made the leap from the backwaters of the internet to the pages of the United States paper of record, the New York Times. The following comes from an editorial that ran just before the end of the year.

…President-elect Barack Obama and the Democrats in Congress seem to have a clear vision of the auto industry they think the country needs. It must be financially self-sufficient. It also must be capable of producing highly fuel-efficient, next-generation vehicles that can help the nation cope with climate change and finite supplies of oil.

Yet for all the conditions attached to it, the multibillion-dollar aid package for Detroit’s carmakers approved by the White House (with Mr. Obama’s support) fails to address one crucial question: Who will buy all the fuel-efficient cars that Detroit carmakers are supposed to make?

The danger is that too few will, especially if gasoline prices remain low. Therefore, it might be time for the president-elect and Congress to think seriously about imposing a gas tax or similar levy to keep gas prices up after the economy recovers from recession.

Americans did not buy enormous gas guzzlers just because Detroit marketed them relentlessly. They bought them because they wanted big cars — and because gas was cheap. If gas stays cheap, Americans would be less inclined to squeeze their families into a lithe fuel-efficient alternative…

The recent infatuation with the Toyota Prius and other fuel-efficient cars could well come to a similar end. It took a gallon of gas at $4.10 to push the share of light trucks down to 45 percent in July. But as gasoline plummeted back to $1.60 a gallon, their share inched back up to 49 percent of auto sales in November.

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…

It’s all stuff that we’ve talked about before, but it seems as though now some kind of popular consensus is forming. I know the economy sucks, and that conventional wisdom is that advocating for a gas tax, even in the best of economic climates, is political suicide, but maybe Americans are ready to accept the truth. Maybe we’re ready to admit to ourselves that the cheap oil is running out, and that, with the negative effects of global warming growing worse by the day, we don’t have the luxury to continue on in the manner to which we’ve become accustomed. Maybe we’re finally ready to face reality like adults. At least that’s what I’m hoping.

And, for what it’s worth the editorial board wasn’t alone in their recommendation. New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman agreed. Following is a quote from his recent piece on the gas tax.

…That is why I believe the second biggest decision Barack Obama has to make — the first is deciding the size of the stimulus — is whether to increase the federal gasoline tax or impose an economy-wide carbon tax. Best I can tell, the Obama team has no intention of doing either at this time. I understand why. Raising taxes in a recession is a no-no. But I’ve wracked my brain trying to think of ways to retool America around clean-power technologies without a price signal — i.e., a tax — and there are no effective ones. (Toughening energy-effiency regulations alone won’t do it.) Without a higher gas tax or carbon tax, Obama will lack the leverage to drive critical pieces of his foreign and domestic agendas…

Which one of these things wouldn’t we want? A gasoline tax “is not just win-win; it’s win, win, win, win, win,” says the Johns Hopkins author and foreign policy specialist Michael Mandelbaum. “A gasoline tax would do more for American prosperity and strength than any other measure Obama could propose.”

I know it’s hard, but we have got to stop “taking off the table” the tool that would add leverage to everything we want to do at home and abroad. We’ve done that for three decades, and we know with absolute certainty how the play ends — with an America that is less innovative, less wealthy, less respected and less powerful…

And, it’s not as though we haven’t already been there. We’ve paid $4 a gallon at the pump before. Yes, it sucked. And, yes, we had to change our lives a bit as a result of it, but, by and large, we managed. And I suspect that we could do it again, especially if measures were taken to ensure that the most vulnerable among us weren’t disproportionately affected. The truth is, we were making real progress in mid 2008, when gas broke the $4 per gallon mark, and we can’t afford to lose that momentum now that it’s temporarily dropped.

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  1. Posted January 4, 2009 at 10:08 pm | Permalink

    I’m sincerely looking forward to President Obama’s legislative push to convince our upcoming Democrat majorities in Congress to approve a massive increase in the federal gasoline tax. Not only will he single-handedly ensure a Republican sweep in the 2010 midterm Congressional elections, he will aggravate all of those Democrat state governors (like ours) who will watch their opportunity for increased *state* gas tax revenues get swiped by Washington. Great idea. Keep it up.

  2. Posted January 4, 2009 at 10:19 pm | Permalink

    A gas tax is fine if it’s 20-30 cents or something but to suggest that it should be a two dollar plus tax to put it at $4.00 plus a gallon is a bit silly and would be devestating to the economy. That’s just not going to happen.

  3. Brackache
    Posted January 4, 2009 at 11:10 pm | Permalink

    What’s so great about a Republican victory if all they do is give lip service to small Government Constitutional ideals, then turn around and become big government tyrants who ignore the Constitution? A pox on both their houses.

    If only we had a timely reason to talk about more interesting matters, such as beard shaving.

  4. Ol' E Cross
    Posted January 4, 2009 at 11:49 pm | Permalink

    Oh Designated Republican, are you being deliberately coy? Ronald Reagan, if you recall, was the first president since Eisenhower to raise the gas tax (he more than doubled it in his first term). Worked for him, though, didn’t it? If I recall, he was relected, once himself, and three times his offspring. I don’t want to discourage you though in your belief that tax rates, rather than actual public benefit, win elections.

    Couz. I agree that the tax increase should be moderate/prudent, but the difference on the economy will be that instead of increased fuel costs funding oil interests (foreign and domestic) this tax would have direct impact on the American economy with increased investment in terms of jobs for RnD and infrastructure. $4 per gallon going to Saudis is a lot different economics than $4 per gallon funding projects in the states.

    Come election time, folks will vote how well they feel like they’re doing compared to four years previous and how well they think they be doing in the next four. If the gas tax comes early and the economy recovers, folks will forget what portion of the pump they pay is tax and what is big oil.

    Seriously, who, without googling it, could tell me now exactly how much per gallon they pay is tax? And, who remembers that it was Reagan who increased that amount more than any other?

  5. mark
    Posted January 5, 2009 at 7:43 am | Permalink

    Designated Republican, no offense, but aren’t you the same person who was predicting a McCain victory in Michigan with a margin of 20 points?

  6. Posted January 5, 2009 at 7:57 am | Permalink

    OEC: I understand that a gas tax would fund infrastructure rebuilding – especially our crumbling roads – and create jobs, but I think all that can be done without a drastic increase of taxes that puts it at $4.00 per gallon again. And this is where I disagree with Mark’s argument:

    “We’ve paid $4 a gallon at the pump before. Yes, it sucked. And, yes, we had to change our lives a bit as a result of it, but we managed.”

    Well, I managed OK (barely) and maybe Mark managed OK along with the rest of the middle class and upper class and maybe even some other low income people that REALLY sacrificed but a lot of people really suffered. Really, really suffered. There’s a small trucking company next to our business that lost a lot of money and had to lay people off. We saw the cost of groceries go up, causing a lot of people to eat beans and pasta for every meal. More people chose not to travel, hurting Michigan’s tourism industry. It further crippled the auto industry, which further crippled thousands of other businesses and families.

    I could go on and on, but the point is that our econonmy is much too fragile to increase tax on gas that dramatically. It is way too risky, and the Obama administration won’t increase it, if at all, more than just a moderate amount.

  7. Old Goat
    Posted January 5, 2009 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    This idea does not bode well for industries that are centered around transportation. Trucking and delivery services took a huge hit on account of the recent price gouging at the pump. Even a modest increase will wipe out profits and drive inflation as fuel surcharges are added to keep these industries solvent. I do however, like the idea of paying for your car insurance at the pump. That would end material losses from dead-beat drivers and cover medical expenses for those injured in accidents.

  8. Posted January 5, 2009 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    Personally, $4.00 a gallon gas completely fuck my finances. I spent close to $7,200 last year on gasoline alone, which acocunts for nearly 30% of my total income for the year. Remind you, I do not drive an SUV nor a truck.

    I find your suggestion that we “managed” to be inherently classist and urban-centric.

    A gas tax would be great to generate money for roads, but unfairly punishes person who live in rural areas who cannot find work anywhere but the cities.

  9. Curt Waugh
    Posted January 5, 2009 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    Cousin Geoff writes:

    We saw the cost of groceries go up, causing a lot of people to eat beans and pasta for every meal. More people chose not to travel, hurting Michigan’s tourism industry. It further crippled the auto industry, which further crippled thousands of other businesses and families.

    Geoff, there is clearly a need (and plenty of resources) to help people who can’t afford to eat. That said, without some pain, how will things ever change? Where is the imperative? Often, I hear in some laments a desire to return to the good old days or just keep things the way they are, why change? (And I’m not necessarily accusing you of either of those things here. Your statement just helped to bring that idea into relief.)

    When we “feel the pain”, we begin to change. Look how often we have all wondered just what the hell that auto companies were doing during those flush years rather than preparing for the future with battery technology and hybrids, etc. They were feeling exactly ZERO pain during all those years. Why on earth would they ever change? And now our lovely government is taking away the pain again. Anybody wanna lay a bet on how much they change?

    This whole gas tax idea is an attempt to made the populace feel some pain about the high cost of our auto infrastructure. Quite frankly, the entire cost of the road system needs to be more acutely shifted to the users of it. It’s so heavily subsidized that we hide the true cost of driving. So much of our economy is command-based because of the heavy involvement of government (land for grazing, water rights, logging, etc.). Let’s open Pandora’s hybrid box and expose the real cost of the choices we make. Yes, there will be some pain, but we’ll learn, change and improve.


    Dude, by my calculations, you drove something like 70k miles last year. Holy crap! That’s a lot. Please say that’s not just commuting and that you’re doing something useful, like door-to-door opium sales in the tri-state area or something.

  10. Brackache
    Posted January 5, 2009 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

    I see.

  11. Posted January 5, 2009 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

    I wish I were selling opium, I’d have more money. I put on about 40,000 miles last year on all my vehicles for a family of 3. That’s approximately 110 miles a day. Assuming I get a mean of 25 mpg:


    I don’t think that this is extreme for people that live in the surrounding areas of southeast michigan and have to commute. Obviously I spent more than this, so I assume that my mean mpg is actually less than 25 or there are some weeks where I drive more or that mean gas prices were above $4.00. And no, I can’t afford a hybrid, nor would a hybrid do me much good, since much of my driving is on the highway.

    If gas is $2.00 a gallon, I have $3200 extra to spend on things like food, bills or a new car.

    So implying that we “managed” is easy for people that have the means to “manage”.

  12. Ryan
    Posted January 5, 2009 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

    How about we all pay less taxes until the government gets it’s shit together on public transportation, not more.

    Also, would the military have to set aside money in it’s budget for the gas tax you’re talking about? Seeing as they’re the largest fuel burning entity in the world it only seems fair:

    I don’t even have a car and I’m against a gas tax.

  13. mark
    Posted January 5, 2009 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

    Like I said, I recognize that it won’t be easy – I just think that the consequences of global warming, if we choose to do nothing, are considerably worse. No offense, but I really don’t think some of you understand 1) that our oil supply isn’t endless, and 2) that we’re approaching a point of no return relative to global warming. I love you guys. I really do. But you’re way off on this. If we don’t do something significant soon, there won’t be a world worth inhabiting in another 100 years. It really is that serious. And, yeah, I understand that breaking free from oil is going to be painful, but, sometimes we need to be adults and face our problems instead of whining about how hard things are. God knows our ancestors got by in much more difficult times.

  14. mark
    Posted January 5, 2009 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

    And I get that no one wants to pay a gas tax. Fuck, I don’t want to pay a gas tax. We’re all in debt as it is. I get it. But look at the facts. When gas was $4 a gallon we started making progress. We started adjusting our lives so that we drove less. We started car pooling. We started buying more efficient cars. And now that it’s under $2 a gallon, things are going back to the way they were. SUVs are selling like they used to, and people aren’t talking about conservation. People will not change unless gas is either more expensive, or the government steps in to dictate what kinds of transportation we use. And the first option seems a lot more democratic to me. Price gas a $4 a gallon, and do something positive with all the money that’s raised. Put it into mass transit work programs. Give people tax breaks on the purchase of electric cars. Fund programs to incentivize people to move back into urban centers. But let’s not just keep going about our lives as though nothing has changed. Let’s not go down without a fight.

  15. Brackache
    Posted January 5, 2009 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

    Problem is, of course, that man-made global warming is still considered politically motivated junk science by I don’t know how many people, whereas our current economic problems are a proven present fact.

  16. Brackache
    Posted January 5, 2009 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

    Not taking sides, just sayin’.

  17. Old Goat
    Posted January 5, 2009 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

    Went to Traverse City recently. The new lower gas price allow wife and I to have two excellent meals out instead of pouring the $ into the tank. Like the idea of a set and unchanging gas price. Then you can budget fuel expenses. $3 per gallon would be high enough but would still unfairly punish lower tier wage earners who must commute to work. So how come the oil companies have stood down on their profit taking? Have they decided that they have enough money for now?

  18. Posted January 5, 2009 at 8:12 pm | Permalink

    I love you too, Mark.

  19. Posted January 5, 2009 at 9:42 pm | Permalink

    Personally, I am with Old Goat. You can make gas $4.00 a gallon but you are shooting other businesses in the foot since people don’t have as much money to spend, and lowering the living standard of poor and rural families since they have less money to spend on things like heat, health care and food. I think that a medium of $2-$3 is reasonable but $4 is downright dangerous to the economy and people’s lives, given the fuel efficiency of existing vehicles. No, we in the country did not adjust. It’s awful.

    The global warming argument will not work. I am thoroughly convinced that pollution and carbon emissions are no good, but using apocalyptic scare tactics didn’t work for the Bible thumpers to stop people from looking at porn and having premarital sex and it won’t work to get people into more efficient cars.

    If car companies can come up with a F-150 style pickup that gets 100 miles to the gallon and doesn’t pollute, people will buy it. I guarantee it. Hell, I’d buy one in a second. The efficient cars that are out there right now are simply not vehicles that people want.

  20. Posted January 5, 2009 at 10:12 pm | Permalink

    Ha, looks like someone is doing it already:

  21. Posted January 5, 2009 at 10:29 pm | Permalink

    It has to be said that this is where GM and Ford could really strike it big. People in farming and building trades would go apeshit over super-fuel efficient trucks since they could save big time and increase their extremely slim profit margins.

    Toyota still has not come out with a hybrid pickup. GM has already released some in limited numbers and was smart enough to include an on board generator with 110V outlets for running power tools onsite.

    I don’t think that country folks want polluting, gas guzzling vehicles. I am sure that if an alternative were available that had the same power and size, they would buy it. Trucks make up almost half the market, american companies are good at making trucks. It seems like they could there’s opportunity to make some money.

  22. Brackache
    Posted January 5, 2009 at 11:09 pm | Permalink

    Whatever the political stripe, everybody likes victory gardens and local self sufficient communities, at least. Yep, shave my beard and call me not very forthcoming, that’s one thing we can all agree on. And would like to see pictures of.

  23. Ol' E Cross
    Posted January 5, 2009 at 11:36 pm | Permalink

    I was working on a comment, but my daughter just through up all over herself … maybe tomorrow.

  24. EoS
    Posted January 6, 2009 at 8:17 am | Permalink

    European countries have had $5 a gallon gas for years. It has not reduced consumption, it has not stimulated alternative fuels, it has merely given more of the individual’s money to their governments to mismanage.

    The highest selling vehicle in the U.S. last year was the F150 Truck. The vast majority prefer private vehicles to mass transit options, especially when the options don’t eliminate the necessity of maintaining private vehicles to get to and from the mass transit options.

    A gas tax is extremely regressive and very atypical of what the Democratic Party stands for.

  25. Paw
    Posted January 6, 2009 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    That’s weird. My kid throws up when Brackache comments too.

  26. Brackache
    Posted January 6, 2009 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    Was it the beard referance?

  27. Ol' E Cross
    Posted January 6, 2009 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    We think the stomach disturbance was a combination of Brackache and bad mayo from a local establishment. Either way, made for an interesting night. A few thoughts…

    -EoS, your bizarre and unsubstantiated assertions about Europe aside, are you really suggesting that cost has no correlation to consumption? Please tell us more about this strange new economics.

    -Perhaps a starting point for discussion should be whether folks agree that the US needs to decrease its oil consumption, be it for global warming, national security, or to preserve the lives of service men and women. Does anyone think it’s wise to keep consuming at our current pace?

    -Brackache. For the sake of argument, lets take it as a given that, one way or another, the government will rob your of your hard-earned money and squander it on wasteful projects. If you had to choose, would you prefer the billions are wasted in overseas wars to protect oil interests or on public infrastructure projects like mass transit and green technology that could lead the US to energy independence? Just curious.

  28. EoS
    Posted January 6, 2009 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

    Nothing strange about my economics. Gas is the typical example of inelastic demand in any introductory economic course. When the price of gas goes down, some people will buy more, but not a lot more. It’s not like we can stock up and fill the underground tank in the backyard. When the price of gas goes up, there is a small number of people that buy less, but, essentially, people still have to have gas to travel by car, so they will continue buying. The demand is “insensitive” to price. Inelastic demand is for things that do not have close substitutes e.g. gasoline. The demand curve is very steep because it represents the fact that no matter whether the price is high or low, you will still have almost the same number of people buying the same amount.

    Even at $4.00 a gallon, the price of gas is still less than the price of a similar quantity of Cola. Some people spend more on bottles of water. Decreasing our oil consumption, in the absence of alternative fuels, will only serve to decrease our standard of living. When the supply of oil diminishes and price escalates, we could convert to electricity derived from nuclear reactors. But as long as we have plenty of oil its our best choice.

  29. Brackache
    Posted January 6, 2009 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    False dilemma. For the sake of argument, OEC, would you rather eat a bowl of someone else’s vomit or a plate of dog poop, since you have to choose between one or the other?

    Since I have a vote, I will vote no on both.

    I think the argument is moot anyway, due to more pressing economic concerns, which we’re all tired of hearing me say are being “solved” in the worst way possible.

    I really dig the idea of Ypsi being more self-sufficient and energy independant. I think it’s a false choice to assume we can’t do it without regulating, taxing, or borrowing the economy further down the shitter. For instance, do we have gardens in our lawns because of regulation and taxation, or because we decided on our own to do it? We decided on our own — a free market solution.

  30. Ol' E Cross
    Posted January 6, 2009 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    EoS. The recent, massive between number of hybrids vs. SUVs purchased when gas prices rose would seem to indicate that driving may be inelastic but consumption is not. People choose what’s most convenient and affordable, agreed? “But as long as we have plenty of oil its our best choice.” Can I introduce you to the concept of foresight?

    BA. “I really dig the idea of Ypsi being more self-sufficient and energy independant.” I’ll take that as choice B. I’ll have the human vomit, please. (Most of it contains alcohol.)

  31. EoS
    Posted January 6, 2009 at 1:39 pm | Permalink


    “People choose what’s most convenient and affordable, agreed?”

    No. People make choices for a myriad of reasons. You may very well choose based on convenience and affordability. Another person may choose a vehicle for entirely different reasons: babe magnet, status symbol, performance, etc. Some even buy hybrids, although they’ll never recoup the additional costs at current gas prices and they may regret it when they are forced to replace a $1500.00 battery in two years.

    You can be pretty snarky at times. When the gas prices rose recently, the vast majority continued to drive the same car as always. I thought electric cars fueled by nuclear power plants was foresight.

  32. Brackache
    Posted January 6, 2009 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

    OEC: Not to get too personal, but you clearly have an anti-dog bias.

  33. Posted January 6, 2009 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

    Really, everything is going to be OK since God put enough oil in the ground to last us until Jesus comes back.

  34. Old Goat
    Posted January 6, 2009 at 7:25 pm | Permalink

    According to some pentecostals, it was da debil dat rooled da earth in da dinosaur times. Dat being da case, den it was da debil dat put da oal in da ground. No wonder oal is no gude!

  35. Posted January 7, 2009 at 8:54 am | Permalink

    @EoS and @OEC: Both gas consumption AND driving are elastic. EVERYTHING has an elastic demand, it’s just a matter of scale. Sure, gas going from $1.60 to $1.80 probably doesn’t change demand much. Going from $2.00 to $4.00 changes it more, but it still may not be much. Going from $4.00 to $10.00 will change demand. People will find alternatives.

    One of the problems with gas/driving, is that although demand can be variable in long term, much of the demand is fixed in the short term. I live in Ypsi, I work in Southfield. Public transportation won’t get me there so I have to drive. If gas prices go up to a certain level, I’ll try to switch to car pooling. If gas prices go up to a certain (much higher) level AND STAY THERE (see previous discussions about needing gas to stay at about $4/gallon), or if I think they will, maybe I try to move nearer to where I work or get a job nearer to where I live.

    The problem is that none of these changes are immediate. If I want to car pool, it takes time to find other people making a similar commute at about the same time and get things arranged. If I want to find a new job or move, it takes much longer. That’s why this kind of change requires an expectations that gas prices will remain above a certain level.

  36. EOS
    Posted January 7, 2009 at 10:51 am | Permalink


    Thanks for adding to this discussion. Your points are valid. In the short term gas demand is somewhat inelastic, but the long term is much more elastic. I also commute a distance to work. Since I work a variable schedule, carpool is not an option. Selling my home and moving closer is not a viable option in this depressed market. Getting another job closer to home is also difficult with current Michigan unemployment rates. For $5 a gallon gas I would continue with the status quo, eliminating other expenses in my budget. For $10 a gallon gas I might consider early retirement subsidized by a job close to home. $10 a gallon gas would also devastate the economy, closing many small businesses and cripple many family finances. It would reduce our standard of living considerably. Realizing that the supply of oil is not unlimited yet still plentiful and cheap today, why the need to force economic devastation prematurely in order to stretch out our dependence on oil? In 50 years, technological advances may likely make alternative energy sources cheap. As oil supplies dwindle, we can gradually convert to the new alternatives without wrecking financial havoc. Why the rush to substantially increase tax burdens as we teeter on the edge of a worldwide financial depression?

  37. Curt Waugh
    Posted January 7, 2009 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    cmadler makes a very good point. I’d add that, with the petrochemical industry in particular, there is an installed based of nearly unimaginable wealth. Think of the trillions and trillions of dollars in roads, refineries, service stations, maintenance personnel, education programs, institutions, etc. involved in the petrochemical industry. It’s going to take a LOT more than a price spike to undo that.

    Any old industry takes forever to decline once an alternative has been introduced. The petrochemical industry is one of the largest and oldest. It’s going to take a massive change in price/conditions/younameit to change long-term habits.

  38. Curt Waugh
    Posted January 7, 2009 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    Dammit: “…an installed BASE…”

  39. Kazoo
    Posted January 7, 2009 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

    I wish there was a way we could bring Frasers over from A2. Its got Ypsi written all over it. I love that bar. Its actually for sale. Anyone have a really big truck?

  40. Ol' E Cross
    Posted January 8, 2009 at 12:06 am | Permalink


    I know I can get snarky, I apologize. Frankly, I get frustrated by the array of things you bring up that I find misleading. For example, “The highest selling vehicle in the U.S. last year was the F150 Truck.” That would seem to imply that more Americans choose large pickups than other vehicles. (If you didn’t mean to mislead, I’m not sure why you mentioned it.) But, we both know that there are comparatively few large pickup offerings to other classes of vehicles and far more Americans bought Corollas and Camrys (combined) than F150s. Things like that make me tired and resort to the ease of snark. I’ll try to behave.

  41. Posted January 9, 2009 at 2:19 am | Permalink

    Well considering how much gas prices have dropped now, a gas tax isn’t as bad. Although the low prices may only be temporary.

  42. EOS
    Posted January 9, 2009 at 8:54 am | Permalink


    I mentioned the fact about F150’s merely because I heard it on the news that morning and it surprised me. The original post discussed the possibility that mainstream people want a gas tax. The post said when gas was $4.10 a gallon the percentage of light trucks purchased was 45%. When the price of gas dropped back to $1.60 a gallon the percentage of light trucks purchased went back up to 49%.

    Since your post, I’ve been observing inter-urban traffic on 3 highways during commute times. More than 95% of passenger vehicles had a single occupant. The number of trucks, vans, and SUV’s outnumbered compact and mid-sized vehicles on every occasion by about 10%. This surprised me as well, because I had assumed, like you did, that in this area at least, small compact cars would predominate.

    So all I’m saying is that if 40 – 60% of the people drive gas-guzzling vehicles I wouldn’t consider a move to tax gas heavily as an acceptable mainstream idea.

  43. Ol' E Cross
    Posted January 9, 2009 at 1:20 pm | Permalink


    Here’s the 2008 vehicle sales from WSJ, and SEMCOG’s vehicle occupancy numbers for the region:
    Freeway/Expressway 1.53
    Arterial Near Expressway 1.39
    Arterial Not Near Expressway 1.53
    Collector/Local 1.39
    Detroit-Canada Connections 1.29

    Yes, that’s a lot of SOSUVs. It’s a lot of wear on roadways, reduction in air quality, and national security risking dependence on foreign oil. A lot of Americans are riding with Hitler. Keeping SOSUVs on our ever expanding roads is an enormous expense. Seems like an increase in gas tax to cover the luxury of driving is reasonable. I don’t think $4 will fly. But some increase should.

    As an aside, why is it so many small government people want bigger roads?

  44. Ol' E Cross
    Posted January 9, 2009 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

    Oh, and I find the WSJ chart helpful because it distinguishes between things like pickups and large and small SUVS (even if it doesn’t distinguish between F150s and Tacomas).

  45. Ol' E Cross
    Posted January 9, 2009 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

    Last thing, the year-end total decline in sales is interesting. The largest decline from 2007 was large SUVs (-38 percent) and the smallest decline was small cars (-1.1) and their were more small cars sold than pickups…

  46. Posted January 9, 2009 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    In my defense, the only reason I ride alone is because nobody likes me.

  47. EOS
    Posted January 9, 2009 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the info OEC. Your data is much stronger than my unscientific anecdotal report.

    I want less government because it allows for more individual freedom. I value my personal vehicle because it gives me the most flexibility of time schedules and routes and potential destinations. I feel safer in my personal vehicle driving after dark than I would walking down the street or standing isolated on a corner hoping the bus will arrive on schedule. I very much prefer to provide for my own needs than to be dependent on the benevolence of government and the approval of the majority. And mass transit doesn’t eliminate the need for roads and maintenance, it just adds additional expenses above and beyond current costs.

  48. Ol' E Cross
    Posted January 9, 2009 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

    Is it just me, or is EOS starting to sound more like Brachacke than EoS? Regardless:

    -the benevolent government you don’t want to rely builds those roads you rely on, doesn’t it?
    -while I respect your fear of standing on street corners I’d suggest traffic fatalities may be a more statistically valid paranoia
    -And, while mass transit doesn’t completely eliminate the need for roads, it greatly reduces expenses. For example, for every four hundred people that find a way, other than a car, to get to downtown A2 you save building a multi-million dollar parking structure. Even a 10 percent decrease in traffic congestion (by use of something like bus-rapid transit) can eliminate the need for billion dollar road widening projects. Here’s illustration of the point from that liberal hotbed, Iowa.

  49. Posted January 9, 2009 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

    EoS obviously hasn’t lived in a place with a decent mass transit system.

    The “freedom” you speak of is only for people who can drive. There are lots of elderly and handicapped individuals that can’t go anywhere because they can’t drive, not to mention many, many impoverished persons who cannot afford vehicles and rely on public transportation to do frivolous things like shop for groceries and go to work.

    Michigan’s public transit system is nonexistent outside Ypsi. Live in a place where there’s a public transit system that works and you will feel inconvenienced by all the money you spend on car repairs, insurance, parking, car note, etc..

    But, in your incredibly narrow world, providing freedom of movement for ALL Americans is a frivolous expense and a drain on the economy.

    My guess is that you are merely afraid of black people.

    My guess is that you are afraid of black people.

  50. Posted January 9, 2009 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

    Wow, I said that last sentence twice.

    Plus, I meant Ypsi/Ann Arbor.

  51. Brackache
    Posted January 9, 2009 at 7:05 pm | Permalink

    I lived in Boston for four years. I like the freedom of expensive, dangerous driving better than the very convenient T.

  52. Brackache
    Posted January 9, 2009 at 7:10 pm | Permalink

    Not to say EoS is this or that, but that reminds me, OEC: most Republicans are readopting their 90’s small government rhetoric now that they’re no longer in office. The same guys that squeezed small government Republicans out of the party in the past few years are now saying the same things they mocked during the primaries. The blatant blind-eye hypocrisy makes me puke.

  53. John on Forest
    Posted January 9, 2009 at 8:03 pm | Permalink

    First off, I am with the crowd that believes we need to make the cost of using energy reflect the total needs of society (national security, less pollution, reduced impact on climate, etc.)

    I don’t believe a gas tax is the right tool: It is too narrow.

    A tax on crude oil would be better, but not best.

    World production of crude oil has reached a maximum, or will in few short years. World demand for energy will continue to increase, as emerging economies continue to grow. This summer’s peak of $140+/bbl for oil was somewhat premature and clearly a bubble. The nature of the bubble was two fold: 1. Oil was inflated higher than current demand/supply dictated and 2. The world’s economic engines were unable to preserver such prices. HOWEVER, ever increasing costs of crude oil are going to be a fact of life here on out.

    The problem with oil prices recently has been the severe price fluctuations. The price went up too fast and our economy was unable to respond fast enough to cope. The current low price of crude resulted from economic recession, partially brought on by the high prices earlier this year (albeit, more directly caused by the housing/mortgage/credit meltdown).

    As some others have said above, we would benefit greatly from a more stable or predictable price. A fiscal policy crafted to stabilize the price of oil, at a level commiserate with it’s true cost would benefit our whole society (including rural commuters). I think that fiscal policy should have two prongs: taxation of oil (perhaps only foreign oil) and stabilization of oil supply via more dynamic use of the strategic oil reserve (SOR). Obviously our SOR is a very small tail wagging a very large dog, so taxation will need to be the larger influence; but some form of supply stabilization needs to be in the mix.

    This needs to be implemented quickly. Frankly we don’t have a very large window of time. In a few short years, tax structures will not be needed at all to keep the price of oil at levels commiserate with it’s true cost. Someone, above, decried the idea of $10/gallon gasoline; yet, we WILL see $10/gal sooner than many may think. The world is producing as much oil as it will ever produce, RIGHT NOW (give or take maybe 5ish years.) Yes we will bring on new discoveries and start producing from known untapped reserves, but those new supplies will only keep us from declining faster in world production. They will not be enough to drive more production that we have now. Meanwhile world demand IS going to increase. Oil prices WILL increase.

    How can we cope with this inevitable increase in price? Push it up NOW, a little, so behavior will start to change before the price goes up too high and without our ability to control it.

    I think a floor on crude oil, of $80-$90/bbl should be put in place gradually over the next one to two years. Thereafter that floor should be increased 10%/year (This is far more gradual than the price increases we saw a year ago.).

    I am not ignorant of the fact that a crude oil tax will influence prices of more than just gasoline. Home heating oil, chemicals, plastics, and many other crude oil dependent commodities will see price increases too. But, I believe this is necessary. We need to start now to find alternatives to crude oil; because, we have less than a century’s supply at current consumption.

    Beyond the narrowness of this topic, we also need to consider similar (but temporally, different) problems with other non-renewable energy sources (natural gas, coal, fissionable material).

  54. EoS
    Posted January 9, 2009 at 10:46 pm | Permalink

    Dude. My guess is you’re afraid of spiders.

  55. Brackache
    Posted January 9, 2009 at 10:47 pm | Permalink

    I’m full of shit. I’m really OEC.

  56. John on Forest
    Posted January 9, 2009 at 10:48 pm | Permalink

    Truth is, EoS, EOS, Brackache, John on Forest, they’re all me, Mark Maynard. I just can’t do it anymore.

  57. Dude
    Posted January 9, 2009 at 10:49 pm | Permalink

    I’m not really a dude.

  58. Robert
    Posted January 9, 2009 at 10:51 pm | Permalink

    Shut up dude. If I pull the trigger, we both die.

  59. Ol' E Cross
    Posted January 9, 2009 at 10:52 pm | Permalink

    So who is EoS and who is EOS?

  60. Paw
    Posted January 9, 2009 at 10:54 pm | Permalink

    We are legion.

  61. mark
    Posted January 9, 2009 at 10:56 pm | Permalink

    I know you are but what am I.

  62. Steve Swan
    Posted January 9, 2009 at 10:56 pm | Permalink


  63. egpenet
    Posted January 9, 2009 at 11:00 pm | Permalink

    A fitting end.

  64. Cousin Geoff
    Posted January 9, 2009 at 11:14 pm | Permalink

    I am not your cousin.

  65. Dirtgrain
    Posted January 9, 2009 at 11:15 pm | Permalink

    I don’t really like dirt or grain.

  66. Leighton
    Posted January 9, 2009 at 11:15 pm | Permalink

    My name doesn’t really rhyme with satan. It’s pronounced. Lee-ton.

  67. Ol' E Cross
    Posted January 9, 2009 at 11:25 pm | Permalink

    Okay. All of the above comments starting with EoS saying “Dude…spiders” have been me. I’ll send an e-mail to Mark confirming it.

    I was curious because of the capital EOS vs. the E lowercase o S. I was a bit surprised at the results. It would seem we can all pretend to be each other. I didn’t think it’d work on the first comment, and got carried away “testing” comments on the other ones. Sorry. I’m not trying to cause Mark grief.

    If it can’t be worked out easily tech speaking, I promise to go on the honor system from now on…

    And, if anyone else cares to test, go for it, have OEC say what you will, this will be my last post of the night.

  68. Ol' E Cross
    Posted January 9, 2009 at 11:35 pm | Permalink

    Everything I ever say or write is a lie, including what I wrote above and what I am writing now.

  69. Ol' E Cross
    Posted January 9, 2009 at 11:37 pm | Permalink

    And I should say that I’m delighted to see the real John on Forest back and hope he and his are doing well, and I am also sorry for interrupting his relevant comment with my distraction.

  70. Ol' E Cross
    Posted January 9, 2009 at 11:39 pm | Permalink

    Ol’E Cross before my JoF, comment, it works doesn’t it?

  71. Posted January 9, 2009 at 11:57 pm | Permalink

    Don’t mess with the dude.


  72. Posted January 9, 2009 at 11:58 pm | Permalink

    Nice try.

  73. Posted January 9, 2009 at 11:59 pm | Permalink


  74. mark
    Posted January 10, 2009 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    I’ve decided to stop blogging as of this moment.

    Goodbye, everyone.

  75. EOS/EoS
    Posted January 10, 2009 at 11:10 am | Permalink

    OEC –

    Get a grip. EOS has been EoS and all comments mine until your arachnophobia post.

    Anonymity provides security, while assuming another person’s online tag is fraudulent and deceitful. There’s a difference even if the world no longer acknowledges absolute truths.

  76. Brackache
    Posted January 10, 2009 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

    Seeing my strategy, my wife moved her ships in Battleship after the firing began last night, confessing only after she won.

    Now this.

    Is there nothing we can rely on?

  77. John on Forest
    Posted January 10, 2009 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    I’m sorry about the post proclaiming to be mark. Perhaps I was drunk?

  78. Ol' E Cross
    Posted January 10, 2009 at 1:07 pm | Permalink


    I wasn’t trying to be fraudulent, which is why I immediately admitted what I’d done.

    A few days ago someone posted as Mark who wasn’t mark. I thought someone might be trying to pass as you by changing an O. For some reason, perhaps because I think computers have magic powers, I’d always assumed that our e-mail addresses acted as a sort of password. Turns out we just have to go by the honor system, which I will.

    And, someone else did also post as me last night. I’m not sure who’s who after that.

  79. Mark H.
    Posted January 10, 2009 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

    I made the comment, posing as OEC, about ‘everything i ever said is a lie,” acting on his invitation to test what he was reporting. I meant it to be humorous, and it’s a rip off of a line from a Star Trek episode, in which a similar paradoxical statement was enough to break the power of a computer gone mad and controlling the starship Enterprise.

    I did not mean to imply that the real OEC was dishonest, and i very much regret if it came across that way. OEC is an honorable and honest person. I will not again use someone else’s moniker.

    Ultimately, all we have is each other, and to preserve those ties honesty and respect are required. The community promotes those ties, or at least i live in the illusion that it does. If not, don’t tell me otherwise.

  80. the real Robert
    Posted January 10, 2009 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

    The fake Robert might be somewhat more clever than the real one (me) since I have no idea what was meant by “Shut up dude. If I pull the trigger, we both die.” I would be willing to step aside and let this other Robert take over for me if it is in fact simply because I’m a dumbass.

  81. john on forest
    Posted January 10, 2009 at 2:38 pm | Permalink


    I just registered on If I show up as a [Member] you will know it’s the real me.

  82. john on forest
    Posted January 10, 2009 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

    Now I know why mark doesn’t capitalize his name. The registration site automatically reduces caps to lowercase.

    You can all still capticalize JoF, though, if you don’t mind. I like it better that way.

  83. the real Robert
    Posted January 10, 2009 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

    If I hadn’t seen Designated Republican posting here all last year I would have sworn he just arrived in 2009 from 1999 via time machine. We have some very bad news for you about the last eight years, DR.

    Damn, now that I mentioned it, I feel really sick that I didn’t take that ride with him.

  84. ol' e cross
    Posted January 10, 2009 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

    JoF, I just registered too. Nice idea. Mark H. I wasn’t offended, in the least…

  85. Posted January 10, 2009 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

    the real Robert “If I hadn’t seen Designated Republican posting here all last year I would have sworn he just arrived in 2009 from 1999 via time machine.”

    That was the fake designated republican all last year. I’m the real McCoy, to employ an Ypsilanti-centric turn of phrase.

  86. john on forest
    Posted January 10, 2009 at 7:52 pm | Permalink


    Thanks. I, for one, think I’m brilliant.

  87. ol' e cross
    Posted January 11, 2009 at 12:00 am | Permalink


    You do have a certain special sumpthin’ sumpthin’. If I have to be the second member, I’m glad the silver’s to you.

  88. Brackache
    Posted January 11, 2009 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    The all lower case looks really weird. Like blogging in DK mode. Or suddenly everyone turned into child versions of themselves.

  89. Brackache
    Posted January 11, 2009 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    Two days and counting on the registration email. I can’t become a member! I can’t log in! This is discriminatory!

  90. Brackache
    Posted January 11, 2009 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

    I guess just one day. Seems like two.

  91. ol' e cross
    Posted January 11, 2009 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

    Dear Brackache,

    All membership application requests are reviewed by current members and confirmed or denied based on merit. Due to the large number of high-quality candidates for membership, the committee has opted to decline your application at this time. We invite you to apply again one year from now during the next open application period.

    Until that time you are still permitted to view and comment on this site as a visitor. On a more positive note, the membership committee is unanimous in confidence that you will find creative ways to turn into a child version of yourself. Forgetting how to count to one is an excellent step.


    ol’ e cross
    Co-Chair MM Membership Review Board

  92. Brackache
    Posted January 11, 2009 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

    I was going to email you my discrimination lawsuit, but I see you’ve disabled that function.

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