Dingell Proposes 50 cent gas tax

Representative Dingell called for a 50 cent gas tax. He is on the right track, but I do not believe he is serious. Unfortunately, I fear this is a ploy. Coupling it as he did with phasing out some popular home interest deductions, it looks like he is just posturing. Too bad.

A carbon tax is the smart way to address the problem of global warming, as well as begin to reduce our dependence on oil, much of which is controlled by foreign despots and dictators, or lies under the unstable regions. If Dingell is serious, he should go with the elegant carbon tax and drop all the needless embellishments.

We should simply tax carbon emissions. We can talk about modalities and levels, but we do not need to make any adjustments or exceptions. Carbon emissions are the problem. Make it more expensive to emit carbon and let people decide how they want to respond. When people put their minds to solving problems, great things happen.

Too many people want to use environmentalism to punish the people and lifestyles they do not like, such as SUV owners or "the rich." The atmosphere & the environment does not recognize these sorts of human distinctions. An SUV owner who drives ten miles a week has a smaller carbon footprint than a Prius owner who drives 1000. We should not put our personal tastes in class warfare above the welfare of the environment. If you put this into the mix, you do not truly care about the environment or perhaps you just care more about your personal hatreds and dislikes.

I have written a lot about the carbon tax and rather than bore you all again, I suggest you look in the archives if you want more information. I do not think Dingell is serious, but I believe his proposal will nevertheless have the beneficial effect of bringing the subject into the mainstream debate. So good for Dingell, whether or not he intends what he may achieve.

Posted by Jack at September 28, 2007 5:28 AM
Comments
Comment #234701

Jack,

If we go the way of carbon taxes let there also be incentives for things like bio-diesel and waste-to-fuel conversion facilities that put only carbon we have pulled out of the air back into the air. Make that double for power sources that use solar or wind power. Force the dedication of all the proceeds from the carbon tax to helping with these renewable and carbon neutral sources and we’ll see how serious these politicians really are about the environment.

Posted by: Lee Jamison at September 28, 2007 9:04 AM
Comment #234704

Alas, poor Dingell.

Doesn’t he realize that virtually any energy tax bill introduced by a Democrat will;
1)have a snowballs chance in hell of passing
2)and even if it does pass it will most likely meet the rapier end of Mr. Bush’s veto pen.

After all, this bipartisianship thing is really a one way street.

Posted by: Rocky at September 28, 2007 9:35 AM
Comment #234721

Jack, I believe you are on the right track in viewing carbon emissions as the problem. So, why our billions of tax dollar subsidies going to ethanol which simply replaces one carbon source for another, and a very expensive source at that, creating already some large market imbalances regarding food products and inflation?

It is so incredible to me, that our government continues to follow the lobbyists on this issue instead of the science. Passive solar construction for business and home construction can reduce energy consumption and carbon output from coal fired sources in the trillion dollar range over the next 20 years. But, since passive solar construction doesn’t reap large profits for corporations or require government subsidies, only legislation, politicians have no interest.

We must vote these addicts to lobbyist campaign donations and after Congress lucrative careers out of office, if we are ever going to send the message to their replacements to do it smarter, do it cheaper, do it because it is right for the people and the nation.

Posted by: David R. Remer at September 28, 2007 12:11 PM
Comment #234737

Lee

If we have the carbon tax, we do not need anything else. We just have to work on modalities. Biodiesel, for example, may be carbon neutral because its production takes carbon out of the air while its consumption puts it back in. To that extent, it would be taxed only on the net carbon. This provides a defacto subsidy. The G need do no more.

Rocky

I am pretty sure Dingell is only doing this bill to hold it up to ridicule. I am hoping he has miscalculated and that it may be taken seriously.

David

I agree on ethanol. The ethanol subsidies are a good example of why you cannot let government too closely manage energy. Now that we got them, we have the qwerty situation.

The carbon tax gets at the real problem, not the symptoms. It favors those fuels that do not emit CO2 and is a defacto subsidy w/o the bureaucrats or politicians getting into the act.

Posted by: Jack at September 28, 2007 2:12 PM
Comment #234761

Jack:

Unfortunately, I agree with you. We need a carbon tax and Dingell is not serious.

A carbon tax alone will not solve the problem. We tax carbon and then we offer goodies to the coal industry to bring us “clean coal.” And then we arrange for sugar quotas and sugar tariffs so that we would not buy the ethanol-from-sugar from Brazil - which really is close to CO2-emmission-free. In addition, we offer unwise subsidies to corn producers in the states to convert the corn to ethanol.

We need legislation to discourage such ridiculous actions and to advance better approaches to reducing CO2. And we do not have any time to waste!

Posted by: Paul Siegel at September 28, 2007 5:33 PM
Comment #234811


Bio fuels are being touted as an alternative for two reasons. One, it is a boon for big agribusiness. Two, the fuel is still dispenced at the Exxon/Mobil pump rather than your electrical outlet. Come hell or high water, the addict finds a way to get his fix. We must thank God that we have corporate capitalists who are willing to supply us.

If the oil companies can put a $1 windfall profits tax on a gallon of gas, surely the government can put a $1 agribusiness tax on a gallon of gas as well.

The time for a oil tax was 1973.

Posted by: jlw at September 29, 2007 9:01 AM
Comment #234814

Yes to a carbon tax. Gasoline tax hikes are on the right tract but ultimately affect only the transportation sector. A revenue-neutral carbon tax will change our behaviors without busting individuals’ budgets.

Posted by: Gerrold at September 29, 2007 9:23 AM
Comment #234815


The gas tax should apply to bio fuels as well and should be combined with a tax on internal combustion engines. The technology is available to switch to electric vehicles, the incentive is not.

If NASCAR was told tomorow that it had five yers to convert to electric, in five years it would have electric race cars capable of going 180mph for 500 miles with no more pit stops than usual and even some really cool sound effects.

Posted by: jlw at September 29, 2007 9:30 AM
Comment #234824

Jack said: “The ethanol subsidies are a good example of why you cannot let government too closely manage energy.”

Jack, your comment and most others dance around the source of the problem. Government IS the only organization capable of providing intelligent and responsible energy planning for our nation’s and people’s future. The fact that it isn’t, only means the voters need to force politician’s hand on the issue.

The fundamental problem is not energy, the fundamental problem is the people do not have accountable control over their democracy and politicians. I recommend we solve the fundamental problem and vote out politicians who fail to chart a common sense pragmatic course for our nation’s problems, sending a mandate to their replacements that we expect common sense pragmatic solutions or they too will be a one term politician.

Let’s quit blaming government for the voter’s deficiency in demanding accountable and responsible representation. Let’s put the blame where it belongs, on the voters, and address the source of the problem, voters voting incumbents back into office again, and again, for failed results.

Our democratic republic system is failing as a direct result of voters failure to make informed and self-interested voting decisions, choosing the short cut easy solution of party identification voting instead, as if either of the Parties had interests other than reelection. The fact that both Dem. and Rep. parties are all about reelection puts the power to make government responsive in the hands of the voters.

It is time we voters educated each other on this fundamental problem and solution. Politicians want our votes, we want responsible common sense government which they are not providing, THEREFORE, it is imperative that we voters refuse to give incumbents our votes, but, giving them instead to challengers on the condition they provide common sense responsible govermnent. And if they don’t, they too will be removed from office.

This is after all, PRECISELY how our Founding Fathers and our U.S. Constitution intended that our form of government SHOULD work. Let’s get on with it! VOID Incumbents whose results of sitting in office fail to provide solutions. Vote for challengers instead. It is what we voters were meant to do all along.

Posted by: David R. Remer at September 29, 2007 1:06 PM
Comment #234827

David R.,

Of course, I think you are right, but I wonder if the problems you cite are inherent in the very notion of democracy. We as a people have many different interests and agendas; your hope that we as a people will attain widespread unanimity about what are common-sense solutions seems idealistic.

That said, we get the government we deserve, and we have to become more deserving if we want better government.

I’m in one of my pessimistic periods. I’ve been discouraged more than usual about how partisanship and/or ideology leads to dishonest or unreflective argumententation, both on the right and the left.

Posted by: Gerrold at September 29, 2007 1:29 PM
Comment #234833

Jack,

What I was getting at on the carbon tax issue was that politicians like to empower themselves with obfuscations on our concerns on real issues. A bridge falls down and we hear calls for new gasoline taxes by people who spent the money from our existing gasoline taxes on pet projects and irrelevancies to buy our votes with our money. They don’t care how they stampede us into giving them our money. They just want our money.

If the government gets an extra dime out of the taxes I’m against it.

Posted by: Lee Jamison at September 29, 2007 2:30 PM
Comment #234834

David, Re: comment #234721

Wholehearted agreement. (Am I really saying this?) Corn-based ethanol subsidies are nothing but a gift to the farm-industry lobbies. They deserve a rank in the Big Lie stratosphere. Adolph would be proud.

Posted by: Lee Jamison at September 29, 2007 2:37 PM
Comment #234847

Gerrold said: “We as a people have many different interests and agendas; your hope that we as a people will attain widespread unanimity about what are common-sense solutions seems idealistic.”

I would change the word “many” above to “some”. We all want affordable responsible energy sources and methodologies that are sustainable, efficient, without hidden environmental or social costs subsidized by federal tax dollars. There are a host of such measures which are proven but, yet, unimplemented. Let’s get on with implementing what we can, and continuing research and development of better sources and methods.

Most of us want to be healthy. Let’s get on with the promotion and incentives that will get us there.

We all want an end to deficits and rising national debt. Let’s get on with it by removing incumbents in growing numbers as long as there is a deficit. This is simple democracy 101. No rocket science here. We just need to inform and support each other as voters to do what we are empowered to do on election day, remove failure and incompetence from our government offices.

We all want our parents and grandparents to have reasonable quality end of life periods. Let’s get on with the policies, programs, and options that will give our parents and grandparents those options, including the right to assisted suicide if they outlive their available resources to sustain an acceptable quality of life. We are talking options here, not force or mandates.

As voters we collectively have the power to demand, expect, and force responsible, efficient government solutions to our people’s national problems, which the majority of the public would approve. Let’s get on with the exercise of that power, and stop blaming everyone but ourselves for nothing getting done.

I would prefer a program or policy that worked, even if not optimally, to no program or policy at all which allows the problem to grow, or contradictory policies and programs which create more problems than they solve.

A slightly better than half-assed solution is usually going to be better than no solution at all. Let’s get on with demanding results, and rewarding incumbent politicians ONLY when results become reality. Trust me, if we can train elephants to stand on giant beach balls, we can train politicians to respect our demand for solutions from government, instead of allowing them to bicker, obfuscate, and create this ever growing list of crises which takes a back seat to their partisan bickering Olympic Games for notariety as to who is worse.

Now is not the time to get discouraged or pessimistic. Now is the time to get organized as voters in demand of responsible representation and solutions in government.

Posted by: David R. Remer at September 29, 2007 4:54 PM
Comment #234904

I’m curious why you think Dingle is just dangling this proposal in front of us? (Sorry, couldn’t help the alliteration joke) Is it because he is a Democrat, therefore he couldn’t have good motives like your saintly selves?

Posted by: alien from the planet zorg at September 30, 2007 7:20 AM
Comment #234905

David, Elephants on giant Beach balls? What beach do you go to?

These posts are too full of strange imagery for early morning reading, I’m spitting out my Cheerios laughing.:)

Posted by: alien from the planet zorg at September 30, 2007 7:25 AM
Comment #234907

Too bad the free market cant take care of this. If only people really wanted cars with lower emissions and use less fuel. I only there were companies that could mass produce a car that, I dont know, used only half an engine, lets say. The other half could be a clean power source. What if we combined these two in a sort of…hybrid engine! What if this engine could produce more power than a regular engine?! People could buy a better performing and save gas! Stick with me here, Im going somewhere with this! People would save money and use that money to spend on other things and lift the economy! Our economy, which is part of a global system, would help the world economy! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA!
Ahem. Seriously folks. Were headed in the right direction as far as global warming. Taxes are not always the answer. They usually affect the little guy more and just puts more money in the hands of politicians. A lower class worker will feel the pain more when it takes him fifty dollars to fill his tank. Rich guys probably pay someone else fifty to take their car and get it filled up for him. Also, I work in transportation. I dont pay 3 dollars a gallon for fuel. I pay half and you pay the other half. Ever heard of a fuel surcharge? I pay the same no matter how high the price of fuel is.
And, coal is very dirty to distill. Ethanol use drives the price of corn which many families in more countries will be able to afford less. Especially in countries were corn is the main staple of their diet such as…Venezuela.

Posted by: JoeRWC at September 30, 2007 8:02 AM
Comment #234910

David et al

The government can provide direction, but it is not good at precise planning. That is why the carbon tax idea is so good. By doing this, government provides an incentive to everything that uses less carbon. The precise techniques and technologies are developed by the people, scientists and firms based on their real needs and usage.

I would also submit that one imporant reason we do NOT address the energy/carbon problem is that we have such a democratic process. In opinion polls, people claim to want to use less carbon. faced with real choices, they do not. They punish any politician who does anything to seriously address the problem because any solution to the CO2 use will mean - surprise - using less carbon by either paying more for carbon based fuel or some form of rationing. It is the people, not their representatives, who love to use and abuse cheap carbon based energy. We need politicians to show leadership, not just give the people what they want. But as you say yourself, we are getting the government we deserve.

Posted by: Jack at September 30, 2007 11:06 AM
Comment #234915

Jack said: “In opinion polls, people claim to want to use less carbon. faced with real choices, they do not.”

This is a gross misunderstanding, Jack. The reality is that low carbon technology begins as a prohibitively expensive option for most working Americans. Solar panels won’t even repay a homeowner the initial investment within 10 years. A hybrid car’s longevity is either competitively priced and short lived, or priced quite high providing comparable longevity and maintenance cost to similar quality combustion engine only vehicle. The used retail price for hybrids is very much higher than comparable non-hybrid vehicles.

There is no hypocrisy on American’s part regarding their wanting to lower their carbon consumption, and choices, it is a simple matter of economics, their low carbon choices are still prohibitively priced as is the case with all new technologies.

Posted by: David R. Remer at September 30, 2007 12:42 PM
Comment #234920

David

What I understand is that many people are perfectly willing to be environmentally friendly as long as it does not mean significant costs or lifestyle changes. In other words, they will buy such products if those products are attractive in terms of price, style etc. Surprise. Yes, I too will buy an environmentally friendly product…if I like it.

People are acting out of logical reasons and talking out of idealistic ones. Nothing wrong with that. Oil is cheap. Oil is easy. That is why we use it. But the price does not reflect its true cost. A carbon tax would merely do that. Then people could make logical decisions and those solar panels would make more sense.

Most working Americans, BTW, have plenty of money for things they want. The mass markets for nice cars, trips to far away places, big screen tvs etc is not run for the rich. But why should anybody buy something that does not make logical sense to him. Everybody figures that one more is not going to make a difference, and he is right. But all together they do. That is why we have to depend on incentives and costs, not good intentions.

Posted by: Jack at September 30, 2007 2:25 PM
Comment #234927

Jack,

I’d modify your terms. I think the distinction isn’t between “logical” and “idealistic,” but between short-term and long-term interests. After all, it’s logical to want to mitigate the worst consequences of climate change or to reduce dependence on foreign oil, just as it is logical for individuals to to make decisions that protect their financial interests. The difference between the two examples is one of perspective, not logic. We humans are relatively good at short-term thinking, less so at long-term.

Some who have been on the vanguard of these issues have made decisions based on a larger perspective. There were homes in my neighborhood in the mid-’70s that used solar energy. It certainly wasn’t in the owners’ best financial interests. I won’t claim to know their motivations, but we shouldn’t rule out the possibility that they were acting in their children’s and grandchildren’s interests, not to mention the country’s.

Posted by: Gerrold at September 30, 2007 4:55 PM
Comment #234930

Are you kidding me? Let’s help the free market? This is ridiculous. Just last week the Democratic presidential candidates claimed the Democratic party was the new champion of the balanced budget and that the Republicans were now the irresponsible fiscal party, now this? That didn’t take long for the Democrats to cave from being the fiscal champions to the raise-taxes champion. So which is it? Fiscal champions or tax and spend champions? Don’t try to claim both - that’s just a lie.

Posted by: David at September 30, 2007 6:10 PM
Comment #242628

we have alternative fuel sources/ideas, so why aren’t we applying them!? someone needs to get their act together and make it happen…bottom line, global warming IS an issue, were screwing with our environment…take our dependency off oil!

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