New horizons in taxation

How do you think this would go over?

The Obama administration has floated a transportation authorization bill that would require the study and implementation of a plan to tax automobile drivers based on how many miles they drive.

The plan is a part of the administration’s Transportation Opportunities Act, an undated draft of which was obtained this week by Transportation Weekly.

The White House, however, said the bill is only an early draft that was not formally circulated within the administration.

“This is not an administration proposal,” White House spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki said. “This is not a bill supported by the administration. This was an early working draft proposal that was never formally circulated within the administration, does not taken into account the advice of the president’s senior advisers, economic team or Cabinet officials, and does not represent the views of the president.”

News of the draft follows a March Congressional Budget Office report that supported the idea of taxing drivers based on miles driven.

Among other things, CBO suggested that a vehicle miles traveled (VMT) tax could be tracked by installing electronic equipment on each car to determine how many miles were driven; payment could take place electronically at filling stations.

The CBO report was requested by Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), who has proposed taxing cars by the mile as a way to increase federal highway revenues.

Obama’s proposal seems to follow up on that idea in section 2218 of the draft bill. That section would create, within the Federal Highway Administration, a Surface Transportation Revenue Alternatives Office. It would be tasked with creating a “study framework that defines the functionality of a mileage-based user fee system and other systems.”

via Obama administration floats draft plan to tax cars by the mile – The Hill’s Floor Action.

New technology makes it easier to monitor all kinds of things that might be taxed.  What are some other possibilities for the taxman?  (Your suggestions may be serious, alarmed, or humorous.)

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • SKPeterson

    So, everyone get up in arms about toll roads – but what is a mileage charge but a toll? This is a subtle admission that highways may be privately owned and operated; if one does not pay the mileage tax, one may face seizure of a vehicle, or restriction on driving – the same as excluding someone from driving on a highway for not paying the toll.

    But, why stop at vehicles – why not tax people who ride bicycles to work – they are taking up valuable space with their little, special use lanes. And sidewalks, why not force everyone to own a pedometer and be taxed per step? Or by time spent in a location – one could simply use the location fixing features of cell phones to measure when people use a public space and then charge them for the time spent.

    And then tax them for the time spent in their homes, monitors on lawn mowers to tax emissions. Oh, the joyous possibilities are endless!

  • SKPeterson

    So, everyone get up in arms about toll roads – but what is a mileage charge but a toll? This is a subtle admission that highways may be privately owned and operated; if one does not pay the mileage tax, one may face seizure of a vehicle, or restriction on driving – the same as excluding someone from driving on a highway for not paying the toll.

    But, why stop at vehicles – why not tax people who ride bicycles to work – they are taking up valuable space with their little, special use lanes. And sidewalks, why not force everyone to own a pedometer and be taxed per step? Or by time spent in a location – one could simply use the location fixing features of cell phones to measure when people use a public space and then charge them for the time spent.

    And then tax them for the time spent in their homes, monitors on lawn mowers to tax emissions. Oh, the joyous possibilities are endless!

  • trotk

    What about my lawnmower? I fill the gas can up (which might need its own electronic surveillance – by the way, how will they know I am filling a can and not a car?) and the government has no idea how many miles I push the mower every week.

  • trotk

    What about my lawnmower? I fill the gas can up (which might need its own electronic surveillance – by the way, how will they know I am filling a can and not a car?) and the government has no idea how many miles I push the mower every week.

  • Jonathan

    Internet Usage Tax.

    Internet Transaction Sales Tax.

    Beverage Tax.

    Trash Tax.

  • Jonathan

    Internet Usage Tax.

    Internet Transaction Sales Tax.

    Beverage Tax.

    Trash Tax.

  • Eric Held

    This really is a serious issue. As we move forward with energy efficiency standards as a society, we have to address that our funding for public infrastructure is based upon consumption fuel. So as efficiency increases funding per used mile decreases.

    This is a similar issue which faces most of our utility providers. As efficiency is increased (which everyone support and is good stewardship) we are decreasing available revenue to update those aging infrastructure systems. And the crumbling of our infrastructure is the largest threat to our economy.

    Here is a policy statement from the American Society of Civil Engineers (of which I am a member) that discusses the need to fix the broken funding mechanism for our transportation infrastructure.

    “Policy

    The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) recommends that adequate funding for operating, maintaining, and improving the nation’s transportation system be provided by a comprehensive program with dedicated elements at the federal, state, and local levels, including:

    User fees such as motor fuel sales tax, vehicle miles traveled (VMT) tax, and passenger facility charges (PFC);

    Indexing user fees to the Consumer Price Index (CPI);

    General treasury funds; state and local sales, income, payroll, and/or property taxes; impact fees and other development-related fees; transportation maintenance and improvement districts; vehicle registration fees; and toll revenues; and

    Public-private partnerships, state infrastructure banks, bonding and other innovative financing mechanisms used as appropriate to leverage available transportation funding, but not in excess of or as a means to supplant adequate user fees or other funding.

    ASCE further recommends that these funds be managed through dedicated trust funds with budgetary firewalls to eliminate the diversion of transportation revenues for non-transportation purposes.

    Issue

    Funding programs for transportation systems, i.e., highways, public transportation, airports, harbors, and waterways, need to be substantially increased to provide orderly, predictable and sufficient revenues to meet current and future demand. The 2009 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure documents a five-year transportation investment shortfall of $812 billion. This funding, from federal, state, and local sources, is needed to bring America?s transportation infrastructure up to a good condition.

    Rationale

    Adequate revenues must be collected and allocated to maintain and improve the nation’s transportation systems and to be consistent with the nation’s environmental and energy conservation goals. A sustained source of revenue is essential to achieve these goals. “

  • Eric Held

    This really is a serious issue. As we move forward with energy efficiency standards as a society, we have to address that our funding for public infrastructure is based upon consumption fuel. So as efficiency increases funding per used mile decreases.

    This is a similar issue which faces most of our utility providers. As efficiency is increased (which everyone support and is good stewardship) we are decreasing available revenue to update those aging infrastructure systems. And the crumbling of our infrastructure is the largest threat to our economy.

    Here is a policy statement from the American Society of Civil Engineers (of which I am a member) that discusses the need to fix the broken funding mechanism for our transportation infrastructure.

    “Policy

    The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) recommends that adequate funding for operating, maintaining, and improving the nation’s transportation system be provided by a comprehensive program with dedicated elements at the federal, state, and local levels, including:

    User fees such as motor fuel sales tax, vehicle miles traveled (VMT) tax, and passenger facility charges (PFC);

    Indexing user fees to the Consumer Price Index (CPI);

    General treasury funds; state and local sales, income, payroll, and/or property taxes; impact fees and other development-related fees; transportation maintenance and improvement districts; vehicle registration fees; and toll revenues; and

    Public-private partnerships, state infrastructure banks, bonding and other innovative financing mechanisms used as appropriate to leverage available transportation funding, but not in excess of or as a means to supplant adequate user fees or other funding.

    ASCE further recommends that these funds be managed through dedicated trust funds with budgetary firewalls to eliminate the diversion of transportation revenues for non-transportation purposes.

    Issue

    Funding programs for transportation systems, i.e., highways, public transportation, airports, harbors, and waterways, need to be substantially increased to provide orderly, predictable and sufficient revenues to meet current and future demand. The 2009 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure documents a five-year transportation investment shortfall of $812 billion. This funding, from federal, state, and local sources, is needed to bring America?s transportation infrastructure up to a good condition.

    Rationale

    Adequate revenues must be collected and allocated to maintain and improve the nation’s transportation systems and to be consistent with the nation’s environmental and energy conservation goals. A sustained source of revenue is essential to achieve these goals. “

  • Carl Vehse

    Oxygen consumption tax.

  • Carl Vehse

    Oxygen consumption tax.

  • Jeremy

    Sales Tax
    Income Tax
    Property Tax
    Highway tolls

    I don’t see what the big deal is. If we’re going to have highways, somebody is going to have to pay for it.

  • Jeremy

    Sales Tax
    Income Tax
    Property Tax
    Highway tolls

    I don’t see what the big deal is. If we’re going to have highways, somebody is going to have to pay for it.

  • Dennis Voss

    Seems to me they already do this. It’s called gasoline tax which we pay on each and every gallon of gas we buy. And guess what, the more we drive, the more gas we use and the more gas we buy and thus pay tax on. This entire process would be much easier and even more transparent if they just increase the gas tax.
    I guess the problem is – electric cars escape.

  • Dennis Voss

    Seems to me they already do this. It’s called gasoline tax which we pay on each and every gallon of gas we buy. And guess what, the more we drive, the more gas we use and the more gas we buy and thus pay tax on. This entire process would be much easier and even more transparent if they just increase the gas tax.
    I guess the problem is – electric cars escape.

  • Cincinnatus

    I’ll second Eric Held’s comments @ 4. I would be totally in favor of replacing the gasoline/fuel tax with a reasonable mileage tax.

    If his comment was tl;dr, consider that all those people driving Nissan Leafs, etc., (ok, there aren’t many yet, but you get the point) aren’t paying their “fair share” in usage taxes. This is bad for all of us if we like functioning transportation infrastructure.

  • Cincinnatus

    I’ll second Eric Held’s comments @ 4. I would be totally in favor of replacing the gasoline/fuel tax with a reasonable mileage tax.

    If his comment was tl;dr, consider that all those people driving Nissan Leafs, etc., (ok, there aren’t many yet, but you get the point) aren’t paying their “fair share” in usage taxes. This is bad for all of us if we like functioning transportation infrastructure.

  • Jeremy

    SUVs and other gas hogs drive up gasoline demand, which drives up gas prices for everyone. I don’t have a problem with the government discouraging people from buying Hummers, given the state of gas prices and the economy.

  • Jeremy

    SUVs and other gas hogs drive up gasoline demand, which drives up gas prices for everyone. I don’t have a problem with the government discouraging people from buying Hummers, given the state of gas prices and the economy.

  • SKPeterson

    The other thing that is noted in the ASCE statement is the need for a firewall to protect the funds. The primary reason that much of our transport infrastructure is falling apart is that many of the funds are regularly “reinvested” in other parts of the public budget. A good contrast is in the deteriorating quality of our locks and dams, which have had their budget almost completely emptied to fund other things v. many of our ports, which use drayage fees, container fees and docking fees to upgrade infrastructure in and around the ports; money which is not given over to state or federal legislators to play with. Another important contrast – one of our most important national transportation components is the rail network, almost all of which is privately owned and operated, which does a credible job of continuously upgrading and maintaining its infrastructure.

  • SKPeterson

    The other thing that is noted in the ASCE statement is the need for a firewall to protect the funds. The primary reason that much of our transport infrastructure is falling apart is that many of the funds are regularly “reinvested” in other parts of the public budget. A good contrast is in the deteriorating quality of our locks and dams, which have had their budget almost completely emptied to fund other things v. many of our ports, which use drayage fees, container fees and docking fees to upgrade infrastructure in and around the ports; money which is not given over to state or federal legislators to play with. Another important contrast – one of our most important national transportation components is the rail network, almost all of which is privately owned and operated, which does a credible job of continuously upgrading and maintaining its infrastructure.

  • Michael Z.

    This sounds like a logistical nightmare. Rather than taxing something by the gallon (easily measurable and collectible) We will install millions (quick google search 62 million) of devices to measure mileage and report on the driver whenever he fills up. (will it be wireless, or will the driver have to plug it in every time he fills up)

    That is just for starters.

  • Michael Z.

    This sounds like a logistical nightmare. Rather than taxing something by the gallon (easily measurable and collectible) We will install millions (quick google search 62 million) of devices to measure mileage and report on the driver whenever he fills up. (will it be wireless, or will the driver have to plug it in every time he fills up)

    That is just for starters.

  • Cincinnatus

    Michael Z.: Alternatively, one could simply report his or her odometer reading after his or her annual emissions/safety inspection. Of course, there is the potential for vast corruption under such a scheme.

    In any case, keep in mind that this is just a policy proposal stated in the vaguest possible terms and not intended for implementation for many moons. The point is this: the gas tax is no longer sufficient to sustain our infrastructure. We thus only have three options: 1) Allow our infrastructure to crumble, 2) Continue the gas tax or even raise it, at the distinct disadvantage of the ever-smaller cohort of drivers–in particular commercial haulers–who actually use fossil fuels while those driving hybrids, etc., get a disproportionate benefit from roads, or 3) Come up with a fair use tax that applies to everyone.

    I am firmly in favor of Option 3. Abolish fuel taxes (at some point). Replace them with something else. Tolls could work, though they too would be a logistical nightmare on anything except class-1 highways. Ideas, anyone?

  • Cincinnatus

    Michael Z.: Alternatively, one could simply report his or her odometer reading after his or her annual emissions/safety inspection. Of course, there is the potential for vast corruption under such a scheme.

    In any case, keep in mind that this is just a policy proposal stated in the vaguest possible terms and not intended for implementation for many moons. The point is this: the gas tax is no longer sufficient to sustain our infrastructure. We thus only have three options: 1) Allow our infrastructure to crumble, 2) Continue the gas tax or even raise it, at the distinct disadvantage of the ever-smaller cohort of drivers–in particular commercial haulers–who actually use fossil fuels while those driving hybrids, etc., get a disproportionate benefit from roads, or 3) Come up with a fair use tax that applies to everyone.

    I am firmly in favor of Option 3. Abolish fuel taxes (at some point). Replace them with something else. Tolls could work, though they too would be a logistical nightmare on anything except class-1 highways. Ideas, anyone?

  • nqb

    If you take a walk, [they]‘ll tax your feet.

  • nqb

    If you take a walk, [they]‘ll tax your feet.

  • WebMonk

    I don’t have an inherent problem with moving a gas tax to a mileage tax. I think there are quite a few practical problems with it, but nothing truly fundamentally horrible.

    The only thing I can think of comes from a policy standpoint – a Hummer and a Leaf might wind up paying the same taxes for the same mileage. One of the understood goals of a gas tax is to push toward more efficient use of gas, and so the Hummer is penalized more than the Leaf by the gas tax.

    A mileage tax would remove that “push” toward efficient gas usage, and in fact would be a perverse incentive when looking at the tax-per-gallon rate.

    Let’s use a 5¢ per mile rate for an example. An SUV get 12 mpg, and would be paying the equivalent of 60¢ per gallon of gas. A hybrid getting 36 mpg would be paying the equivalent of $1.80 per gallon of gas.

    To keep the gas tax’s push toward fuel economy, they would have to break up the tax rates – tax an SUV at 10¢ per mile and the hybrid at 2¢ per mile. Or something like that.

  • WebMonk

    I don’t have an inherent problem with moving a gas tax to a mileage tax. I think there are quite a few practical problems with it, but nothing truly fundamentally horrible.

    The only thing I can think of comes from a policy standpoint – a Hummer and a Leaf might wind up paying the same taxes for the same mileage. One of the understood goals of a gas tax is to push toward more efficient use of gas, and so the Hummer is penalized more than the Leaf by the gas tax.

    A mileage tax would remove that “push” toward efficient gas usage, and in fact would be a perverse incentive when looking at the tax-per-gallon rate.

    Let’s use a 5¢ per mile rate for an example. An SUV get 12 mpg, and would be paying the equivalent of 60¢ per gallon of gas. A hybrid getting 36 mpg would be paying the equivalent of $1.80 per gallon of gas.

    To keep the gas tax’s push toward fuel economy, they would have to break up the tax rates – tax an SUV at 10¢ per mile and the hybrid at 2¢ per mile. Or something like that.

  • Cincinnatus

    WebMonk: The purpose of the gas tax, until very recently, was never to discourage the use of vehicles with inefficient fuel economies–because it can’t. Gas costs the same for everyone. Raising the price of gasoline via taxes can decrease the incentive of everyone to drive or no one. Under a mileage tax, SUV drivers (of which I am one *cough*) would still be paying much more overall than the hybrid driver because the SUV driver will still have to buy much more gasoline than the hybrid driver.

    In principle, I’m opposed to social planning of the sort that would require a higher tax level on arbitrarily selected classes of vehicles. If you must, however, a simple annual surcharge (surtax?) upon SUVs would be much more practical than delegating the responsibility of taxing different vehicles at different rates to local gas stations.

  • Cincinnatus

    WebMonk: The purpose of the gas tax, until very recently, was never to discourage the use of vehicles with inefficient fuel economies–because it can’t. Gas costs the same for everyone. Raising the price of gasoline via taxes can decrease the incentive of everyone to drive or no one. Under a mileage tax, SUV drivers (of which I am one *cough*) would still be paying much more overall than the hybrid driver because the SUV driver will still have to buy much more gasoline than the hybrid driver.

    In principle, I’m opposed to social planning of the sort that would require a higher tax level on arbitrarily selected classes of vehicles. If you must, however, a simple annual surcharge (surtax?) upon SUVs would be much more practical than delegating the responsibility of taxing different vehicles at different rates to local gas stations.

  • Cincinnatus

    In short, the gas tax isn’t a vice tax, and I don’t think it should be. Using the road is using the road (except in the case of large dump trucks, etc., whose weight can crack pavement–but who already pay surcharges, I believe). We need a fair use tax. The fact that I can’t afford a Volt (and don’t want one) is not an acceptable reason to impose a disproportionate burden of funding the road upon me.

  • Cincinnatus

    In short, the gas tax isn’t a vice tax, and I don’t think it should be. Using the road is using the road (except in the case of large dump trucks, etc., whose weight can crack pavement–but who already pay surcharges, I believe). We need a fair use tax. The fact that I can’t afford a Volt (and don’t want one) is not an acceptable reason to impose a disproportionate burden of funding the road upon me.

  • Carl Vehse

    “I guess the problem is – electric cars escape.”
    Not for long. Washington State considers annual tax on electric cars

  • Carl Vehse

    “I guess the problem is – electric cars escape.”
    Not for long. Washington State considers annual tax on electric cars

  • Carl Vehse

    The Beatles warned us about the Taxman.

  • Carl Vehse

    The Beatles warned us about the Taxman.

  • http://www.newreformationpress.com Patrick Kyle

    I already pay 60+ cents in tax per gallon in California. Where does all that money go?

    The fact is the government can’t raise the taxes enough to overcome our deficits and have never proven themselves able to treat the national budget in a disciplined and straightforward way. They know this, and a mileage tax is just another scheme to rob us to fund their pet projects and buy votes from their constituents.

  • http://www.newreformationpress.com Patrick Kyle

    I already pay 60+ cents in tax per gallon in California. Where does all that money go?

    The fact is the government can’t raise the taxes enough to overcome our deficits and have never proven themselves able to treat the national budget in a disciplined and straightforward way. They know this, and a mileage tax is just another scheme to rob us to fund their pet projects and buy votes from their constituents.

  • SKPeterson

    Cincinnatus – yes most commercial vehicles pay some sort of tax based upon weight – hence, roadside weigh stations. Conceivably you could impose a tax based upon the weight/class of the vehicle which would reflect expected road wear. The issue though comes in the tax implications for variances in driving behavior – should a family with a van used primarily for in-city driving and shuttling of kids to school pay the same tax as a similar van that is used for deliveries, or for a car used by a salesman that racks up large volumes of interstate mileage, but few city miles. Taxes are generally best applied when there are few variations in use or type and that uniformity or differences can be easily ascertained. Thus a gas tax or a sales tax is easier to implement than an income tax, and an income tax easier to implement than a road use tax – the reasoning that dollars are dollars, but not all road miles are equally the same – highway use v. city use. the vehicle weight, and other factors, all create thousands of road use types or classifications. From an efficiency and fairness standpoint, this is largely a non-starter (but, from the political, create-a-new-dependent-constituency standpoint it could be a pol’s dream).

  • SKPeterson

    Cincinnatus – yes most commercial vehicles pay some sort of tax based upon weight – hence, roadside weigh stations. Conceivably you could impose a tax based upon the weight/class of the vehicle which would reflect expected road wear. The issue though comes in the tax implications for variances in driving behavior – should a family with a van used primarily for in-city driving and shuttling of kids to school pay the same tax as a similar van that is used for deliveries, or for a car used by a salesman that racks up large volumes of interstate mileage, but few city miles. Taxes are generally best applied when there are few variations in use or type and that uniformity or differences can be easily ascertained. Thus a gas tax or a sales tax is easier to implement than an income tax, and an income tax easier to implement than a road use tax – the reasoning that dollars are dollars, but not all road miles are equally the same – highway use v. city use. the vehicle weight, and other factors, all create thousands of road use types or classifications. From an efficiency and fairness standpoint, this is largely a non-starter (but, from the political, create-a-new-dependent-constituency standpoint it could be a pol’s dream).

  • Jonathan

    @19 “They know this, and a mileage tax is just another scheme to rob us to fund their pet projects and buy votes from their constituents.”

    Your comment makes sense if you meant ‘buy votes FOR their constituents’? Those constituents being the oil companies. I get that. I waiting for the first Teabag to join Obama in calling for an end to subsidies for the oil companies.

  • Jonathan

    @19 “They know this, and a mileage tax is just another scheme to rob us to fund their pet projects and buy votes from their constituents.”

    Your comment makes sense if you meant ‘buy votes FOR their constituents’? Those constituents being the oil companies. I get that. I waiting for the first Teabag to join Obama in calling for an end to subsidies for the oil companies.

  • DonS

    I see the problem with a fixed gas tax per gallon — fuel economy is up and a small segment of the vehicle population does not use fuel subject to road taxes. So, another solution is required in order to maintain the policy that those using the roads maintain them.

    Conservatives should support, in principle, the concept of user fees, and thus the mileage tax, as long as the previous gas taxes are fully repealed. I disagree with the idea of penalty rates or fees for larger vehicles. There is no evidence that I am aware of showing that SUV’s cause any more significant wear and tear to the roads than do subcompacts, and we do not want or need government nannies trying to force us to do what they think is best. If hard and unassailable evidence of significant additional damage to roads done by SUV’s surfaces, then the fees should be categorized by weight, and strictly based on road construction and maintenance cost. I also disagree with any attempt to include automatic escalators based on some arbitrary CPI measure. It is much healthier for legislatures to have to engage the cost of things and to make conscious efforts to raise taxes than to have those raises occur automatically. Legislatures should be fully incentivized to avoid behavior which is inflationary, not to be rewarded for inflation. Additionally, the mileage tax would need to be administered in a manner which is not intrusive, avoids opportunity for fraud, and which respects citizen privacy, by collecting only information about miles driven, and not locations. It seems as if such a system might be administered in conjunction with the payment of annual registration fees, but there are many palatable options, I’m sure.

    A key concession for conservatives to support this change would be to obtain legislative provisions ensuring that the fees collected are used solely for highway and street construction and maintenance. As noted above, a major infrastructure problem we have is that substantial percentages of motorist taxes are diverted to subsidize public transportation pork projects and other such programs that need to stand or fail on their own.

  • DonS

    I see the problem with a fixed gas tax per gallon — fuel economy is up and a small segment of the vehicle population does not use fuel subject to road taxes. So, another solution is required in order to maintain the policy that those using the roads maintain them.

    Conservatives should support, in principle, the concept of user fees, and thus the mileage tax, as long as the previous gas taxes are fully repealed. I disagree with the idea of penalty rates or fees for larger vehicles. There is no evidence that I am aware of showing that SUV’s cause any more significant wear and tear to the roads than do subcompacts, and we do not want or need government nannies trying to force us to do what they think is best. If hard and unassailable evidence of significant additional damage to roads done by SUV’s surfaces, then the fees should be categorized by weight, and strictly based on road construction and maintenance cost. I also disagree with any attempt to include automatic escalators based on some arbitrary CPI measure. It is much healthier for legislatures to have to engage the cost of things and to make conscious efforts to raise taxes than to have those raises occur automatically. Legislatures should be fully incentivized to avoid behavior which is inflationary, not to be rewarded for inflation. Additionally, the mileage tax would need to be administered in a manner which is not intrusive, avoids opportunity for fraud, and which respects citizen privacy, by collecting only information about miles driven, and not locations. It seems as if such a system might be administered in conjunction with the payment of annual registration fees, but there are many palatable options, I’m sure.

    A key concession for conservatives to support this change would be to obtain legislative provisions ensuring that the fees collected are used solely for highway and street construction and maintenance. As noted above, a major infrastructure problem we have is that substantial percentages of motorist taxes are diverted to subsidize public transportation pork projects and other such programs that need to stand or fail on their own.

  • Aaron Root

    The discussion about legislatively ensuring any such tax revenue may only be spent on highway construction and maintenance reminds me of Al Gore’s lockbox.

    Short of enshrining such use in the several states’ constitutions by amendment (or in the case of a federal tax, in the US constitution) future legislators will always find a way to divert funds to where they want them.

  • Aaron Root

    The discussion about legislatively ensuring any such tax revenue may only be spent on highway construction and maintenance reminds me of Al Gore’s lockbox.

    Short of enshrining such use in the several states’ constitutions by amendment (or in the case of a federal tax, in the US constitution) future legislators will always find a way to divert funds to where they want them.

  • DonS

    Aaron @ 23: What you say is true. But I don’t see how we can put transportation taxes in the Constitution. Actually, California voters have tried that, but still the legislators figure out how to divert the money to their pet causes, usually through borrowing schemes. Kind of the same as what happened to Al Gore’s lockbox — the Social Security trust funds full of federal IOU’s. Which, of course, are really TOU’s (Taxpayers Owe You), since politicians are actually spending our money, not their’s.

    Nonetheless, I think it is better to obtain these guarantees, and at least have a potential political issue, than not to bother. At least make them go through the hoops, and be accountable for their pork to those who care.

  • DonS

    Aaron @ 23: What you say is true. But I don’t see how we can put transportation taxes in the Constitution. Actually, California voters have tried that, but still the legislators figure out how to divert the money to their pet causes, usually through borrowing schemes. Kind of the same as what happened to Al Gore’s lockbox — the Social Security trust funds full of federal IOU’s. Which, of course, are really TOU’s (Taxpayers Owe You), since politicians are actually spending our money, not their’s.

    Nonetheless, I think it is better to obtain these guarantees, and at least have a potential political issue, than not to bother. At least make them go through the hoops, and be accountable for their pork to those who care.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Maybe I’m missing something, but assuming that the problem is that increased efficiency in cars is leading to a decrease in gas tax revenue, how is the simplest and fairest solution not to just increase the gas tax? But then, perhaps I have misidentified the problem.

    Cincinnatus (@15), your reply to WebMonk (@14) doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. “Gas costs the same for everyone,” yes, but not everyone uses the same amount of gas. Surely you get that. I don’t drive all that much, and increases in the gas tax won’t affect me very much. Your argument is akin to arguing that cigarette taxes don’t discourage (or at least disproportionately impact) heavy smokers because cigarettes cost the same for everyone.

    You also said that you’re “opposed to social planning of the sort that would require a higher tax level on arbitrarily selected classes of vehicles”, but I really don’t see that applying to a gas tax in any way — in fact, it contradicts your earlier statement that an increase in the gas tax affects everyone (though proportionate to the amount of gas they use). What am I missing here?

    There are all sorts of negative things that a gas tax might, in theory, discourage (e.g. pollution, carbon dioxide emissions, poor city planning, supporting repressive regimes, foreign energy dependence), but even if you don’t think that the tax should or does have those effects, it still seems to me that heavier vehicles — which damage the road more — also correlate pretty well with those vehicles that get worse mileage, so the gas tax functions reasonably well as a road-use tax already.

    Of course, purely electric vehicles like the Leaf do slip through this analysis, though they are so very few and far between right now and for the foreseeable future that I don’t see that as much of an issue. There are vastly more “fuel-efficient” hybrids (or just small cars) out there right now than there are electrics.

    Should electric cars start to become a significant problem in terms of road use (or road wear), I would think it would be pretty easy to implement an electricity tax on par with the gas tax, no?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Maybe I’m missing something, but assuming that the problem is that increased efficiency in cars is leading to a decrease in gas tax revenue, how is the simplest and fairest solution not to just increase the gas tax? But then, perhaps I have misidentified the problem.

    Cincinnatus (@15), your reply to WebMonk (@14) doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. “Gas costs the same for everyone,” yes, but not everyone uses the same amount of gas. Surely you get that. I don’t drive all that much, and increases in the gas tax won’t affect me very much. Your argument is akin to arguing that cigarette taxes don’t discourage (or at least disproportionately impact) heavy smokers because cigarettes cost the same for everyone.

    You also said that you’re “opposed to social planning of the sort that would require a higher tax level on arbitrarily selected classes of vehicles”, but I really don’t see that applying to a gas tax in any way — in fact, it contradicts your earlier statement that an increase in the gas tax affects everyone (though proportionate to the amount of gas they use). What am I missing here?

    There are all sorts of negative things that a gas tax might, in theory, discourage (e.g. pollution, carbon dioxide emissions, poor city planning, supporting repressive regimes, foreign energy dependence), but even if you don’t think that the tax should or does have those effects, it still seems to me that heavier vehicles — which damage the road more — also correlate pretty well with those vehicles that get worse mileage, so the gas tax functions reasonably well as a road-use tax already.

    Of course, purely electric vehicles like the Leaf do slip through this analysis, though they are so very few and far between right now and for the foreseeable future that I don’t see that as much of an issue. There are vastly more “fuel-efficient” hybrids (or just small cars) out there right now than there are electrics.

    Should electric cars start to become a significant problem in terms of road use (or road wear), I would think it would be pretty easy to implement an electricity tax on par with the gas tax, no?

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    The gas tax is far better because it promotes fuel efficiency. I have an econobox and my husband has a hybrid and carpools to work. I want $10 a gallon gas and $200/barrel oil. It could be better for our economy. It makes imported/transported products more expensive and gives our workers and local industries an advantage. The higher the better through taxes or high oil prices. We need to reduce consumption. Less waste, less pollution.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    The gas tax is far better because it promotes fuel efficiency. I have an econobox and my husband has a hybrid and carpools to work. I want $10 a gallon gas and $200/barrel oil. It could be better for our economy. It makes imported/transported products more expensive and gives our workers and local industries an advantage. The higher the better through taxes or high oil prices. We need to reduce consumption. Less waste, less pollution.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    DonS said (@22), “There is no evidence that I am aware of showing that SUV’s cause any more significant wear and tear to the roads than do subcompacts.” Really? Then how do you explain weigh stations? Do you just think that weight is not a factor in road wear? A motorcycle, Mini Cooper, Suburu Outback, Suburban, delivery truck, and a semi … all have the same impact on the asphalt or concrete?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    DonS said (@22), “There is no evidence that I am aware of showing that SUV’s cause any more significant wear and tear to the roads than do subcompacts.” Really? Then how do you explain weigh stations? Do you just think that weight is not a factor in road wear? A motorcycle, Mini Cooper, Suburu Outback, Suburban, delivery truck, and a semi … all have the same impact on the asphalt or concrete?

  • Cincinnatus

    tODD: Your response seems to miss the point entirely. In fact, I think you willfully ignore it when you basically admit explicitly that hybrids and electric cars pay proportionally little tax–or none at all. This, by the way, is precisely the point. As vehicles employing natural gas, biofuels, hybrid energy systems, and electricity become more common, revenue will inevitably decrease–as it already has–no matter how much the gas tax is raised. In 30 years, when purely gasoline-powered cars are (I’m willing to be) in the minority, you can’t expect a gasoline tax to fund our roads, unless you want to make commercial shipping as expensive as possible (I don’t expect many hybrid trucks).

    An electricity tax–which already exists–is absurd, if you want to target electric cars specifically. People charge those in their garages. There would, moreover, be no way to target such revenue specifically to transportation infrastructure, which is the other point here.

    sg: Are you insane? $10/gallon gas, until American development patterns become more dense and walkable (and even after), would be devastating to the poor and middle class. You might as well be lusting after $10/milk or $10/loaf bread. In no way would uber-expensive gas aid the American economy in the net.

  • Cincinnatus

    tODD: Your response seems to miss the point entirely. In fact, I think you willfully ignore it when you basically admit explicitly that hybrids and electric cars pay proportionally little tax–or none at all. This, by the way, is precisely the point. As vehicles employing natural gas, biofuels, hybrid energy systems, and electricity become more common, revenue will inevitably decrease–as it already has–no matter how much the gas tax is raised. In 30 years, when purely gasoline-powered cars are (I’m willing to be) in the minority, you can’t expect a gasoline tax to fund our roads, unless you want to make commercial shipping as expensive as possible (I don’t expect many hybrid trucks).

    An electricity tax–which already exists–is absurd, if you want to target electric cars specifically. People charge those in their garages. There would, moreover, be no way to target such revenue specifically to transportation infrastructure, which is the other point here.

    sg: Are you insane? $10/gallon gas, until American development patterns become more dense and walkable (and even after), would be devastating to the poor and middle class. You might as well be lusting after $10/milk or $10/loaf bread. In no way would uber-expensive gas aid the American economy in the net.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “So, another solution is required in order to maintain the policy that those using the roads maintain them.”

    Commercial vehicles use huge amounts of gas and won’t be going hybrid/electric any time soon. They will be paying.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “So, another solution is required in order to maintain the policy that those using the roads maintain them.”

    Commercial vehicles use huge amounts of gas and won’t be going hybrid/electric any time soon. They will be paying.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “Are you insane? $10/gallon gas, until American development patterns become more dense and walkable”

    Check that arrow of causality.

    It has been said, necessity is the mother of invention.

    American development is so spread out because transportation is too cheap.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “Are you insane? $10/gallon gas, until American development patterns become more dense and walkable”

    Check that arrow of causality.

    It has been said, necessity is the mother of invention.

    American development is so spread out because transportation is too cheap.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    DonS (@22), having spent less than a minute Googling the topic, I assume you simply haven’t looked into the matter. Here’s the first paragraph from the first result I found from my Google search:

    Modern engineering research has quantified the link between axle weight and road wear: a linear increase in loading produces a fourth-power exponential acceleration in wear, so doubling axle weight is estimated to accelerate road wear by roughly 16 times the original rate.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    DonS (@22), having spent less than a minute Googling the topic, I assume you simply haven’t looked into the matter. Here’s the first paragraph from the first result I found from my Google search:

    Modern engineering research has quantified the link between axle weight and road wear: a linear increase in loading produces a fourth-power exponential acceleration in wear, so doubling axle weight is estimated to accelerate road wear by roughly 16 times the original rate.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Gas price in Germany in April 2011 was $8.71 a gallon. If they can pay it, we can pay it. And they have nice roads.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Gas price in Germany in April 2011 was $8.71 a gallon. If they can pay it, we can pay it. And they have nice roads.

  • Cincinnatus

    sg@30: To an extent, you’re quite correct. So what’s your point? If your goal is to “improve” American development patterns along more dense lines, then I suppose “shock therapy” is one way to do it. But again, the middle and lower classes will be devastated. Note the variety of other things that will increase in price rather dramatically if petroleum and fuel costs increase as much as you fantasize about: food, anything made of plastic, anything you buy from anywhere other than your own town, everything else.

    And your argument is Germany? Yeah, Germany levies a massive tax on gasoline, at several levels of manufacture and purchase. They also levy massive taxes on everything else, including income, which, yes, gives them a number of nice things. What’s your point?

  • Cincinnatus

    sg@30: To an extent, you’re quite correct. So what’s your point? If your goal is to “improve” American development patterns along more dense lines, then I suppose “shock therapy” is one way to do it. But again, the middle and lower classes will be devastated. Note the variety of other things that will increase in price rather dramatically if petroleum and fuel costs increase as much as you fantasize about: food, anything made of plastic, anything you buy from anywhere other than your own town, everything else.

    And your argument is Germany? Yeah, Germany levies a massive tax on gasoline, at several levels of manufacture and purchase. They also levy massive taxes on everything else, including income, which, yes, gives them a number of nice things. What’s your point?

  • Louis

    sg @ 32 – not quite. North America (and Canada more than the US), has a much lower population density than Germany. A very high increase in the cost of gas will punish especially the low-density areas, such as Western Canada, which also happens to be the economic engine (of Canada).

    The other factor is the comparable poor state of public transport in North America, which lags far behind Germany. There are exceptions to the rule – in Vancouver and the lower Fraser valley you can live up to 70km outside of downtown Vancouver, and you can travel to work on the Sky Train / Western Express, very reliably at lower costs (than driving) , although I’m not sure of the subsidies involved . But given the extremely high costs of building more freeways in Vancouver, even subsidised transport has more economic sense overall. But Vancouver is the exception.

    But given the numbers Todd supplied @31, one could massively decrease road maintenance costs if more material were to be shipped by rail (as Warren Buffet is saying). The real highway destroyers are the semi’s.

  • Louis

    sg @ 32 – not quite. North America (and Canada more than the US), has a much lower population density than Germany. A very high increase in the cost of gas will punish especially the low-density areas, such as Western Canada, which also happens to be the economic engine (of Canada).

    The other factor is the comparable poor state of public transport in North America, which lags far behind Germany. There are exceptions to the rule – in Vancouver and the lower Fraser valley you can live up to 70km outside of downtown Vancouver, and you can travel to work on the Sky Train / Western Express, very reliably at lower costs (than driving) , although I’m not sure of the subsidies involved . But given the extremely high costs of building more freeways in Vancouver, even subsidised transport has more economic sense overall. But Vancouver is the exception.

    But given the numbers Todd supplied @31, one could massively decrease road maintenance costs if more material were to be shipped by rail (as Warren Buffet is saying). The real highway destroyers are the semi’s.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Cincinnatus (@28), you can call me stupid, but I’m pretty sure I’m not “willfully” ignoring the point of yours I’m not getting.

    That said, I think you’re missing the point, yourself. First of all, hybrid vehicles have the same fuel sources as regular cars: gasoline. The fact that they (in theory) use it more efficiently is obviously the point for debate, but no way could a hybrid user pay “none at all” when it comes to the gas tax.

    As to “vehicles employing natural gas, biofuels, … and electricity”, are you suggesting that those are having a serious impact on our roads right now, or even any time soon? I know of no biofuel cars, have maybe at best seen a handful of electrics out of the many thousands of vehicles I regularly see, and the only natural-gas-powered vehicles I know of are for municipal fleets.

    And I have already said that it would likely be easier to enforce a fuel-consumption tax on those alternative fuels, if it comes to that.

    You complain that “People charge [electric vehicles] in their garages,” but I think that misses the mark, as well. Nissan Leafs (Leaves?) can be charged on a regular 120V/20A outlet, but Nissan notes that this “trickle charge” is significantly slower, and they recommend using a specially designed 240V/40A charging dock that either gets installed in your house, or has been installed elsewhere. I still think electric vehicles are not likely to be much of an impact on our roads, either way, to worry about for the near future.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Cincinnatus (@28), you can call me stupid, but I’m pretty sure I’m not “willfully” ignoring the point of yours I’m not getting.

    That said, I think you’re missing the point, yourself. First of all, hybrid vehicles have the same fuel sources as regular cars: gasoline. The fact that they (in theory) use it more efficiently is obviously the point for debate, but no way could a hybrid user pay “none at all” when it comes to the gas tax.

    As to “vehicles employing natural gas, biofuels, … and electricity”, are you suggesting that those are having a serious impact on our roads right now, or even any time soon? I know of no biofuel cars, have maybe at best seen a handful of electrics out of the many thousands of vehicles I regularly see, and the only natural-gas-powered vehicles I know of are for municipal fleets.

    And I have already said that it would likely be easier to enforce a fuel-consumption tax on those alternative fuels, if it comes to that.

    You complain that “People charge [electric vehicles] in their garages,” but I think that misses the mark, as well. Nissan Leafs (Leaves?) can be charged on a regular 120V/20A outlet, but Nissan notes that this “trickle charge” is significantly slower, and they recommend using a specially designed 240V/40A charging dock that either gets installed in your house, or has been installed elsewhere. I still think electric vehicles are not likely to be much of an impact on our roads, either way, to worry about for the near future.

  • Louis

    ” They also levy massive taxes on everything else, including income, which, yes, gives them a number of nice things. What’s your point?”

    Some of those nice things are: a very stable economy, a 2011 deficit of 2.5 %, and an economy growing at 2.6% . But to be fair, it also derives from a better structured economy, not just simply “more taxes”……

    .

  • Louis

    ” They also levy massive taxes on everything else, including income, which, yes, gives them a number of nice things. What’s your point?”

    Some of those nice things are: a very stable economy, a 2011 deficit of 2.5 %, and an economy growing at 2.6% . But to be fair, it also derives from a better structured economy, not just simply “more taxes”……

    .

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “They also levy massive taxes on everything else, including income, which, yes, gives them a number of nice things. What’s your point?”

    My point is that I see higher gas prices as good. It will motivate necessary changes. Kind of like telling teens to get off the sofa and get a job or else. Folks need real reasons to change. People spend less than half as much of their income on food than they used to. Food is also too cheap. We have rising obesity rates because we eat too much, and drive too much and use fuel to make stuff too easy.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “They also levy massive taxes on everything else, including income, which, yes, gives them a number of nice things. What’s your point?”

    My point is that I see higher gas prices as good. It will motivate necessary changes. Kind of like telling teens to get off the sofa and get a job or else. Folks need real reasons to change. People spend less than half as much of their income on food than they used to. Food is also too cheap. We have rising obesity rates because we eat too much, and drive too much and use fuel to make stuff too easy.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “Some of those nice things are: a very stable economy, a 2011 deficit of 2.5 %, and an economy growing at 2.6% . But to be fair, it also derives from a better structured economy, not just simply “more taxes”……”

    They also have different demographics.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “Some of those nice things are: a very stable economy, a 2011 deficit of 2.5 %, and an economy growing at 2.6% . But to be fair, it also derives from a better structured economy, not just simply “more taxes”……”

    They also have different demographics.

  • Louis

    Sg @ 38: A very firm NO!

  • Louis

    Sg @ 38: A very firm NO!

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Louis @ 39: A very firm, YES!

    It is just a statement of fact. It can’t be discounted or ignored. It also is not the only factor.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Louis @ 39: A very firm, YES!

    It is just a statement of fact. It can’t be discounted or ignored. It also is not the only factor.

  • DonS

    tODD @ 27, 31: There is no question that commercial trucks cause much greater wear on the roads, which is why there are weigh stations and why commercial trucks pay substantial additional fees. But I am not aware of any evidence that the research you cited is true for 6,000 lb GVH vs. 2,000 lb GVH, for example. It’s logical to think that there might be some additional damage caused by the 6,000 lb vehicle, but my understanding from conversing with people in the field is that it is believed to be de minimus, far outweighed by the damage caused simply by the passage of time, the sun, and changing weather.

  • DonS

    tODD @ 27, 31: There is no question that commercial trucks cause much greater wear on the roads, which is why there are weigh stations and why commercial trucks pay substantial additional fees. But I am not aware of any evidence that the research you cited is true for 6,000 lb GVH vs. 2,000 lb GVH, for example. It’s logical to think that there might be some additional damage caused by the 6,000 lb vehicle, but my understanding from conversing with people in the field is that it is believed to be de minimus, far outweighed by the damage caused simply by the passage of time, the sun, and changing weather.

  • Louis

    SG I meant that you should please do not degenrate another thread with that debate. Please.

  • Louis

    SG I meant that you should please do not degenrate another thread with that debate. Please.

  • DonS

    To clarify my comment @ 41, with commercial trucks we are talking on the order of 80,000 lb, not 6,000 lb. That’s the difference.

  • DonS

    To clarify my comment @ 41, with commercial trucks we are talking on the order of 80,000 lb, not 6,000 lb. That’s the difference.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    SG I meant that you should please do not degenrate another thread with that debate. Please.

    Just stating. Not debating. Unless you want to challenge the statement. One can’t debate alone. :-D

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    SG I meant that you should please do not degenrate another thread with that debate. Please.

    Just stating. Not debating. Unless you want to challenge the statement. One can’t debate alone. :-D

  • DonS

    sg @ 26 & following: You seem to be, in general, a person who values limited government and one which is not attempting to coerce people into certain behaviors using punitive taxes and regulations. Yet on this issue, you are perfectly fine with government doing that very thing. Why is that? How do you distinguish the issue of fuel taxes from other types of taxes or regulations? Or, have I completely misread your political philosophy?

    “American development is so spread out because transportation is too cheap.”

    OK, so now what? Have government impose punitive taxes after the fact, and force people out of their rural homes and towns? Board those places up, because SG says gas is too cheap?
    Would you substitute the fuel tax for some other tax, or are you saying that government should simply take more tax money from the people? Should the gas tax money be used to build public transit systems, as in Germany? Why is it inappropriate to simply allow the market to move us forward toward different fuel sources and transportation as technology develops responsive to economic conditions, without having bureaucrats intervene and try to force things before they’re ready?

    Until you made the comment about demographics, I wasn’t sure you were the same SG. But I think you should be able to recognize that demographics aren’t at issue here. This is about geography and available transportation.

  • DonS

    sg @ 26 & following: You seem to be, in general, a person who values limited government and one which is not attempting to coerce people into certain behaviors using punitive taxes and regulations. Yet on this issue, you are perfectly fine with government doing that very thing. Why is that? How do you distinguish the issue of fuel taxes from other types of taxes or regulations? Or, have I completely misread your political philosophy?

    “American development is so spread out because transportation is too cheap.”

    OK, so now what? Have government impose punitive taxes after the fact, and force people out of their rural homes and towns? Board those places up, because SG says gas is too cheap?
    Would you substitute the fuel tax for some other tax, or are you saying that government should simply take more tax money from the people? Should the gas tax money be used to build public transit systems, as in Germany? Why is it inappropriate to simply allow the market to move us forward toward different fuel sources and transportation as technology develops responsive to economic conditions, without having bureaucrats intervene and try to force things before they’re ready?

    Until you made the comment about demographics, I wasn’t sure you were the same SG. But I think you should be able to recognize that demographics aren’t at issue here. This is about geography and available transportation.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    DonS (@41), did you see my earlier comment (@31)? Nothing in that statement suggests a magical cutoff at which vehicles stop causing wear on the road. It’s a posited relationship between vehicle weight and road wear, no matter how large or small.

    That article, you’ll notice, while not about that relationship, per se, does come from the Center for Transportation Studies at the University of Minnesota, so unless you have some actual data to the contrary, I’m gonna go with that statement.

    And yes, according to the article at that link, a 6000-lb. vehicle would cause 81 times more wear on the road than a 2000-lb. one.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    DonS (@41), did you see my earlier comment (@31)? Nothing in that statement suggests a magical cutoff at which vehicles stop causing wear on the road. It’s a posited relationship between vehicle weight and road wear, no matter how large or small.

    That article, you’ll notice, while not about that relationship, per se, does come from the Center for Transportation Studies at the University of Minnesota, so unless you have some actual data to the contrary, I’m gonna go with that statement.

    And yes, according to the article at that link, a 6000-lb. vehicle would cause 81 times more wear on the road than a 2000-lb. one.

  • DonS

    tODD @ 46: The article you linked to was about commercial trucks. No data indicated or discussed concerning SUV’s, or implying that their linearity factors applied all the way down to zero. I think your last statement is false — the article neither said nor implied anything of the sort. And even if it did, unless the data supporting the article included passenger vehicles, instead of the commercial vehicles it claims to have included, such a statement wouldn’t be supported.

  • DonS

    tODD @ 46: The article you linked to was about commercial trucks. No data indicated or discussed concerning SUV’s, or implying that their linearity factors applied all the way down to zero. I think your last statement is false — the article neither said nor implied anything of the sort. And even if it did, unless the data supporting the article included passenger vehicles, instead of the commercial vehicles it claims to have included, such a statement wouldn’t be supported.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    @ Don S. Do I misunderstand that roads are a public good? How about clean air? Should we have policies that maintain public goods that are paid for with user fees like gas taxes? Should we have policies that aim to limit behaviors that are destructive like polluting the environment and exhausting resources? Our intrusive government has already unfairly burdened folks with taxes that do not promote the general welfare and in fact punish normal healthy behavior while encouraging and subsidizing destructive behaviors.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    @ Don S. Do I misunderstand that roads are a public good? How about clean air? Should we have policies that maintain public goods that are paid for with user fees like gas taxes? Should we have policies that aim to limit behaviors that are destructive like polluting the environment and exhausting resources? Our intrusive government has already unfairly burdened folks with taxes that do not promote the general welfare and in fact punish normal healthy behavior while encouraging and subsidizing destructive behaviors.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “But I think you should be able to recognize that demographics aren’t at issue here.”

    I said they aren’t the only issue. They always matter. But anyway that was only in response to a comment that had already strayed from the issue somewhat. The comment was:

    “Some of those nice things are: a very stable economy, a 2011 deficit of 2.5 %, and an economy growing at 2.6% . But to be fair, it also derives from a better structured economy, not just simply “more taxes”……”

    I was actually trying to undermine the notion that taxes caused the favorable attributes of the German economy. Those attributes arise from other factors.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “But I think you should be able to recognize that demographics aren’t at issue here.”

    I said they aren’t the only issue. They always matter. But anyway that was only in response to a comment that had already strayed from the issue somewhat. The comment was:

    “Some of those nice things are: a very stable economy, a 2011 deficit of 2.5 %, and an economy growing at 2.6% . But to be fair, it also derives from a better structured economy, not just simply “more taxes”……”

    I was actually trying to undermine the notion that taxes caused the favorable attributes of the German economy. Those attributes arise from other factors.

  • DonS

    SG @ 48: There is a difference between user fees, those that fairly assess users for the costs of maintaining and building particular infrastructure, and punitive fees or taxes designed by government not to recover costs but to modify behavior. You seem to be arguing for the latter, on the basis that government already does this kind of stuff, so why not in this area? Why just pollution and resource exhaustion? Why not tax hamburgers at $5.00 each to discourage their consumption, and subsidize asparagus? Or a tax on Bibles because they require the destruction of trees and cattle? You are opening a huge Pandora’s box when you advocate such interventionist policies only to curb behavior you personally don’t like.

    Well, the reason why not is because good and inexpensive transportation is necessary to a vibrant economy. If we, as a people, believe that we need to update our transportation system to lessen air pollution and resource exhaustion, as you put it, then we should design the new system before we punitively tax people out of the old one, in some cases preventing folks from continuing to hold jobs and earn income.

    Auto emissions are down over 95% since the 1960′s — we’ve already gone a long way to practically eliminate known pollutants emitted by vehicles. And we have more proven reserves of oil in this world than ever in history. Not saying we won’t ultimately deplete that resource, but it is not imminent, and the natural pressures of the market will force up its cost as it becomes more scarce and expensive to extract.

  • DonS

    SG @ 48: There is a difference between user fees, those that fairly assess users for the costs of maintaining and building particular infrastructure, and punitive fees or taxes designed by government not to recover costs but to modify behavior. You seem to be arguing for the latter, on the basis that government already does this kind of stuff, so why not in this area? Why just pollution and resource exhaustion? Why not tax hamburgers at $5.00 each to discourage their consumption, and subsidize asparagus? Or a tax on Bibles because they require the destruction of trees and cattle? You are opening a huge Pandora’s box when you advocate such interventionist policies only to curb behavior you personally don’t like.

    Well, the reason why not is because good and inexpensive transportation is necessary to a vibrant economy. If we, as a people, believe that we need to update our transportation system to lessen air pollution and resource exhaustion, as you put it, then we should design the new system before we punitively tax people out of the old one, in some cases preventing folks from continuing to hold jobs and earn income.

    Auto emissions are down over 95% since the 1960′s — we’ve already gone a long way to practically eliminate known pollutants emitted by vehicles. And we have more proven reserves of oil in this world than ever in history. Not saying we won’t ultimately deplete that resource, but it is not imminent, and the natural pressures of the market will force up its cost as it becomes more scarce and expensive to extract.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Sorry DonS (@47), but your arguments won’t fly until you come up with some actual data, or at least a suggested mechanism by which your argument makes sense.

    To wit, what mechanism are you suggesting by which the “fourth-power rule” stops working at a certain vehicle weight? Why are SUV’s exempt, but “commercial trucks” (whatever scientific definition you’re imagining for those) aren’t?

    Yes, “The article [I] linked to was about commercial trucks,” and that is because, as per the fourth-power rule, heavy semis cause waaay more road wear than do SUVs, and so that is what most of the articles regarding the fourth-power rule concern themselves with.

    But, again, you offer nothing to suggest why I should believe your assertion (@22).

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Sorry DonS (@47), but your arguments won’t fly until you come up with some actual data, or at least a suggested mechanism by which your argument makes sense.

    To wit, what mechanism are you suggesting by which the “fourth-power rule” stops working at a certain vehicle weight? Why are SUV’s exempt, but “commercial trucks” (whatever scientific definition you’re imagining for those) aren’t?

    Yes, “The article [I] linked to was about commercial trucks,” and that is because, as per the fourth-power rule, heavy semis cause waaay more road wear than do SUVs, and so that is what most of the articles regarding the fourth-power rule concern themselves with.

    But, again, you offer nothing to suggest why I should believe your assertion (@22).

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Hey, Don, I hear you. We need to consider what the cost/benefits are. We have structural problems like Louis noted. We have incentivized all kinds of stuff and removed natural consequences. If we are going to pay folks’ medical bills, then it is logically consistent to tax their cigarettes or candy etc. Even better would be to have less subsidies and less taxes IMO. My point is that we don’t have consistent or coherent rationale for all kinds of stuff and it is pretty crazy.

    However, gas taxes to pay for roads is pretty straight forward. You need the gas and the road. The gas is proportional to the usage, so it is about as fair as you can get and it requires very little bureaucracy to collect.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Hey, Don, I hear you. We need to consider what the cost/benefits are. We have structural problems like Louis noted. We have incentivized all kinds of stuff and removed natural consequences. If we are going to pay folks’ medical bills, then it is logically consistent to tax their cigarettes or candy etc. Even better would be to have less subsidies and less taxes IMO. My point is that we don’t have consistent or coherent rationale for all kinds of stuff and it is pretty crazy.

    However, gas taxes to pay for roads is pretty straight forward. You need the gas and the road. The gas is proportional to the usage, so it is about as fair as you can get and it requires very little bureaucracy to collect.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “good and inexpensive transportation is necessary to a vibrant economy.”

    Uh huh. What about wasteful excess?

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “good and inexpensive transportation is necessary to a vibrant economy.”

    Uh huh. What about wasteful excess?

  • DonS

    tODD @ 51: Hmmm. I have to prove that it doesn’t apply? How about you have to prove it does? At least if you want to charge a higher mileage rate to an SUV.

    I don’t see how you think you can take data for apx. 50,000 lb vehicles and just apply it to 6,000 lb vehicles. Extrapolating data to declare as fact things falling along the extrapolation lines, not actually within the data band, is not good science. It’s theory. And, I don’t see these authors as even opining as to your theory that their proven relationships apply downwardly all the way to zero pounds. There is a point below which the weight of the vehicle is insufficient to cause any appreciable damage. And I believe that point is well above 6,000 lbs.

  • DonS

    tODD @ 51: Hmmm. I have to prove that it doesn’t apply? How about you have to prove it does? At least if you want to charge a higher mileage rate to an SUV.

    I don’t see how you think you can take data for apx. 50,000 lb vehicles and just apply it to 6,000 lb vehicles. Extrapolating data to declare as fact things falling along the extrapolation lines, not actually within the data band, is not good science. It’s theory. And, I don’t see these authors as even opining as to your theory that their proven relationships apply downwardly all the way to zero pounds. There is a point below which the weight of the vehicle is insufficient to cause any appreciable damage. And I believe that point is well above 6,000 lbs.

  • Cincinnatus

    tODD: Don’t be silly. SUV’s weigh between 4000 and 6000 pounds, compared to the average sedan’s 2500 – 5000 pounds. A loaded semi-truck can weigh in excess of 81,000 pounds–much more if trucks are granted permafrost/deep-freeze exemptions, as they are every winter in Wisconsin. Please don’t tell me you think that a 4000 pound SUV (like mine) is doing appreciably more damage to the road than someone’s 3000 pound Accord, especially in comparison with an 80,000 pound tractor trailer. This is why no transportation authority of whom I’m aware proposes raising taxes on SUVs and other Class-D vehicles on the grounds that they do more damage to the road. It’s a fairly absurd claim.

    Meanwhile, your earlier comment to me pooh-poohed the idea that any taxes other than gas taxes are silly. Really? Heard of forward-thinking and planning for contingencies? Soon, passenger fleets from all major automakers will average 35 mpg. A few decades ago, they averaged 15 – 20 mpg, at best. In my own city, one large tax company fuels their fleet with natural gas. All Ford trucks and SUVs are equipped with “flex fuel”–i.e., they can run on biofuels and other oil/alcohol-based fuels. Every major automaker is making and popularizing hybrids and, soon, electric cars. All of these vehicles pay substantially less in gas/use taxes to use the road, even though they’re doing no less damage to the road than someone else’s gasoline-powered vehicle. This will create a significant funding deficit in coming decades. I just don’t see a principled reason to favor only a higher gas tax, unless one’s aim has nothing to do with sustaining revenue and infrastructure and everything to do with penalizing “negative externalities” like greenhouse gases–not necessarily an unworthy goal, but not relevant here (and one of which I’m skeptical for the same reasons DonS cites).

    As for 220V sockets–you do know that’s the same kind you plug your oven and air conditioner into? Many people already have them in their garages, in fact, as a matter of course. It’s not some exotic device that one will only be able to procure from the government. Anyway, why implement multiple taxing structures (gas and electricity!) when you could have one? Especially when plug-in electrics may not in fact be the future of automobiling: Honda and other manufacturers are already marketing plausible fuel cell cars which run on hydrogen–also not taxed like gasoline.

  • Cincinnatus

    tODD: Don’t be silly. SUV’s weigh between 4000 and 6000 pounds, compared to the average sedan’s 2500 – 5000 pounds. A loaded semi-truck can weigh in excess of 81,000 pounds–much more if trucks are granted permafrost/deep-freeze exemptions, as they are every winter in Wisconsin. Please don’t tell me you think that a 4000 pound SUV (like mine) is doing appreciably more damage to the road than someone’s 3000 pound Accord, especially in comparison with an 80,000 pound tractor trailer. This is why no transportation authority of whom I’m aware proposes raising taxes on SUVs and other Class-D vehicles on the grounds that they do more damage to the road. It’s a fairly absurd claim.

    Meanwhile, your earlier comment to me pooh-poohed the idea that any taxes other than gas taxes are silly. Really? Heard of forward-thinking and planning for contingencies? Soon, passenger fleets from all major automakers will average 35 mpg. A few decades ago, they averaged 15 – 20 mpg, at best. In my own city, one large tax company fuels their fleet with natural gas. All Ford trucks and SUVs are equipped with “flex fuel”–i.e., they can run on biofuels and other oil/alcohol-based fuels. Every major automaker is making and popularizing hybrids and, soon, electric cars. All of these vehicles pay substantially less in gas/use taxes to use the road, even though they’re doing no less damage to the road than someone else’s gasoline-powered vehicle. This will create a significant funding deficit in coming decades. I just don’t see a principled reason to favor only a higher gas tax, unless one’s aim has nothing to do with sustaining revenue and infrastructure and everything to do with penalizing “negative externalities” like greenhouse gases–not necessarily an unworthy goal, but not relevant here (and one of which I’m skeptical for the same reasons DonS cites).

    As for 220V sockets–you do know that’s the same kind you plug your oven and air conditioner into? Many people already have them in their garages, in fact, as a matter of course. It’s not some exotic device that one will only be able to procure from the government. Anyway, why implement multiple taxing structures (gas and electricity!) when you could have one? Especially when plug-in electrics may not in fact be the future of automobiling: Honda and other manufacturers are already marketing plausible fuel cell cars which run on hydrogen–also not taxed like gasoline.

  • DonS

    SG @ 52: So, we agree? You only want to tax gas to recover costs, and not to punish? You are backing off of your desire to tax gas at $6.50 per gallon?

    As for wasteful excess, define it. That’s the problem you run into when you seek to control people’s lives through punitive taxation.

  • DonS

    SG @ 52: So, we agree? You only want to tax gas to recover costs, and not to punish? You are backing off of your desire to tax gas at $6.50 per gallon?

    As for wasteful excess, define it. That’s the problem you run into when you seek to control people’s lives through punitive taxation.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Cincinnatus (@55), DonS (@54), honestly, do you have anything but pure conjecture to offer on your theories (“There is no evidence that I am aware of showing that SUV’s cause any more significant wear and tear to the roads than do subcompacts” @22 and “Please don’t tell me you think that a 4000 pound SUV (like mine) is doing appreciably more damage to the road than someone’s 3000 pound Accord” @55)?

    Once again, the first test to establish the “fourth-power rule” relating road wear and vehicle weight (actually, axle load), was run by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHO) in the late 1950s. Several reviews of this study and/or new studies have been done since then, with results suggesting varying exponents (perhaps 3 or lower, with some suggestions going up to 8 or more) for other conditions. Nonetheless, everything I’ve found on the topic suggests that there is a power (i.e. x^3) relationship here, such that heavier vehicles have a disproportionate impact on road wear compared to lighter ones, regardless.

    The AASHO test consisted of trucks ranging in gross weight from 4000 lbs. to 108000 lbs. [1][2] Based on the data from those vehicles, they posited the fourth-power rule for road wear.

    If you want to posit that this rule suddenly fails to apply to vehicles under 4000 lbs., then it is up to you to come up with data for that yourself, or at least posit a mechanism for it.

    But this is clearly not a case of “taking data for apx. 50,000 lb vehicles and just applying it to 6,000 lb vehicles”.

    And yes, Cincinnatus (@55), I do think, based on what I’ve found so far that “a 4000 pound SUV (like yours) is doing appreciably more damage to the road than someone’s 3000 pound Accord.” Specifically, I would estimate the SUV to do three times more damage to the road. However, I would expect you to realize from the same “fourth-power rule” I have been pointing you to that neither would significantly compare “with [the wear caused by] an 80,000 pound tractor trailer.” C’mon, do the math.

    [1]training.ce.washington.edu/wsdot/Modules/06_structural_design/aasho_road_test.htm
    [2]Feel free also to go to Amazon.com and search inside the book “Design and Performance of Road Pavements” by Paul and David Croney, starting at page 248.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Cincinnatus (@55), DonS (@54), honestly, do you have anything but pure conjecture to offer on your theories (“There is no evidence that I am aware of showing that SUV’s cause any more significant wear and tear to the roads than do subcompacts” @22 and “Please don’t tell me you think that a 4000 pound SUV (like mine) is doing appreciably more damage to the road than someone’s 3000 pound Accord” @55)?

    Once again, the first test to establish the “fourth-power rule” relating road wear and vehicle weight (actually, axle load), was run by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHO) in the late 1950s. Several reviews of this study and/or new studies have been done since then, with results suggesting varying exponents (perhaps 3 or lower, with some suggestions going up to 8 or more) for other conditions. Nonetheless, everything I’ve found on the topic suggests that there is a power (i.e. x^3) relationship here, such that heavier vehicles have a disproportionate impact on road wear compared to lighter ones, regardless.

    The AASHO test consisted of trucks ranging in gross weight from 4000 lbs. to 108000 lbs. [1][2] Based on the data from those vehicles, they posited the fourth-power rule for road wear.

    If you want to posit that this rule suddenly fails to apply to vehicles under 4000 lbs., then it is up to you to come up with data for that yourself, or at least posit a mechanism for it.

    But this is clearly not a case of “taking data for apx. 50,000 lb vehicles and just applying it to 6,000 lb vehicles”.

    And yes, Cincinnatus (@55), I do think, based on what I’ve found so far that “a 4000 pound SUV (like yours) is doing appreciably more damage to the road than someone’s 3000 pound Accord.” Specifically, I would estimate the SUV to do three times more damage to the road. However, I would expect you to realize from the same “fourth-power rule” I have been pointing you to that neither would significantly compare “with [the wear caused by] an 80,000 pound tractor trailer.” C’mon, do the math.

    [1]training.ce.washington.edu/wsdot/Modules/06_structural_design/aasho_road_test.htm
    [2]Feel free also to go to Amazon.com and search inside the book “Design and Performance of Road Pavements” by Paul and David Croney, starting at page 248.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “As for wasteful excess, define it. That’s the problem you run into when you seek to control people’s lives through punitive taxation.”

    Paying for the public goods we all use is not punitive. Taxing bad behavior that has expensive consequences borne by the whole group is not punitive. It just covers the costs. Now, if we don’t want to cover those costs, that is another ball game. Clean air is not an intangible. Resource management is also a form of public good. Just because God blessed us with creative folks who invented cool technologies that allow us to use petroleum to improve the quality of our lives, does not in anyway obligate him to give us folks who will come up with the next great thing. We need to be responsible. We don’t have cheap renewable fuels to replace petroleum yet. We may never. We have to consider that possibility, lest we end up taking the attitude of tough luck for future generations. Yes we do owe our posterity to leave things better than we found them.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “As for wasteful excess, define it. That’s the problem you run into when you seek to control people’s lives through punitive taxation.”

    Paying for the public goods we all use is not punitive. Taxing bad behavior that has expensive consequences borne by the whole group is not punitive. It just covers the costs. Now, if we don’t want to cover those costs, that is another ball game. Clean air is not an intangible. Resource management is also a form of public good. Just because God blessed us with creative folks who invented cool technologies that allow us to use petroleum to improve the quality of our lives, does not in anyway obligate him to give us folks who will come up with the next great thing. We need to be responsible. We don’t have cheap renewable fuels to replace petroleum yet. We may never. We have to consider that possibility, lest we end up taking the attitude of tough luck for future generations. Yes we do owe our posterity to leave things better than we found them.

  • Cincinnatus

    tODD@57: I don’t know if a study exists demonstrating the SUVs do or do not damage pavement substantially more than cars. On a gut level, I highly doubt it. The new Volt weights ~3700 lbs. My SUV weights 4400 lbs. You really think I’m cracking the pavement much more than an eco-friendly driver in an econo-box?

    Average road pavement is designed to withstand tens of thousands of pounds. Sure, my SUV might damage pavement “more” than a Corolla, but that’s like saying that a housefly moves more air than a gnat when it flaps its wings. Again, sure; the fly might even move orders of magnitude more air than the gnat. But both are utterly insignificant when compared with the albatross flapping its wings nearby. Passenger cars don’t even remotely approach the limits of pavement strength. Trucks do on a daily basis. 4,000 vs. 81,000. Come on, man. Math is cool, but I just showed you an even simpler and infinitely more relevant calculation.

    Interestingly, Nevada is already considering a mileage tax to replace their state gas tax: http://www.nevadadot.com/Micro-Sites/VMTFeeNV/Questions_and_Comments.aspx

    Cool stuff. As an aside, they note as a matter of course that “heavy commercial trucks cause more damage to the road surface than passenger cars and SUVs/personal trucks.” Debating whether small cars or moderately large cars damage pavement more seems to me to be deeply irrelevant–a fact already noted in that large trucks already pay substantial additional user fees via weigh stations, etc., to use the roads. They break it, they buy it (more of it than we do, anyway).

  • Cincinnatus

    tODD@57: I don’t know if a study exists demonstrating the SUVs do or do not damage pavement substantially more than cars. On a gut level, I highly doubt it. The new Volt weights ~3700 lbs. My SUV weights 4400 lbs. You really think I’m cracking the pavement much more than an eco-friendly driver in an econo-box?

    Average road pavement is designed to withstand tens of thousands of pounds. Sure, my SUV might damage pavement “more” than a Corolla, but that’s like saying that a housefly moves more air than a gnat when it flaps its wings. Again, sure; the fly might even move orders of magnitude more air than the gnat. But both are utterly insignificant when compared with the albatross flapping its wings nearby. Passenger cars don’t even remotely approach the limits of pavement strength. Trucks do on a daily basis. 4,000 vs. 81,000. Come on, man. Math is cool, but I just showed you an even simpler and infinitely more relevant calculation.

    Interestingly, Nevada is already considering a mileage tax to replace their state gas tax: http://www.nevadadot.com/Micro-Sites/VMTFeeNV/Questions_and_Comments.aspx

    Cool stuff. As an aside, they note as a matter of course that “heavy commercial trucks cause more damage to the road surface than passenger cars and SUVs/personal trucks.” Debating whether small cars or moderately large cars damage pavement more seems to me to be deeply irrelevant–a fact already noted in that large trucks already pay substantial additional user fees via weigh stations, etc., to use the roads. They break it, they buy it (more of it than we do, anyway).

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    And Cincinnatus (@55), it’s not all “planning for contingincies” I’m opposed to, just planning for those which seem quite unlikely. And it seems to me that we simply disagree about the proabilities involved. But, to do a quick rundown reply…

    If by “biofuels”, you merely were referring to ethanol-gasoline blends, I suppose that’s one thing. Still, the existence of many vehicles capable of taking up to E85 (for several years now) has not yet resulted in an appreciable infrastructure of stations willing to actually sell it. I believe much of the popularity of ethanol-blend fuel comes from ill-advised government mandates in the first place (and old or bad science in the second place), so my “contingency plan” in this dream-world scenario would be to remove those incentives, not account for them. Regardless, I do not foresee a significant amount of gasoline being displaced by ethanol — much less any other biofuel — over the next decade.

    “In my own city, one large tax company fuels their fleet with natural gas.” An anecdote I’m sure would be well received by you had it not been written by you. Suffice it to say that the natural-gas-fueling infrastructure appears to be even smaller than the E85 fueling infrastructure (~1100 for the former in the whole country, of which half are for public use, compared to ~1800 E85 fueling stations, mainly in the Midwest).

    “Every major automaker is making and popularizing hybrids.” I still don’t think you understand how hybrids work. They aren’t charged up electrically — the batteries are ultimately powered by the gasoline.

    And, as I’ve already mentioned, the day in which electric vehicles make an appreciable dent in our gasoline consumption appears to be quite far off.

    In short, I really don’t see the need for a major change in our gas tax system based on those arguments. Now, as to this argument of yours:

    Soon, passenger fleets from all major automakers will average 35 mpg. A few decades ago, they averaged 15 – 20 mpg, at best.

    Um, wouldn’t that just suggest that for gasoline-powered cars — the overwhelming number of cars today, and, I argue, for the foreseeable future — we should adjust the gas tax rate to compensate for increased fuel efficiency?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    And Cincinnatus (@55), it’s not all “planning for contingincies” I’m opposed to, just planning for those which seem quite unlikely. And it seems to me that we simply disagree about the proabilities involved. But, to do a quick rundown reply…

    If by “biofuels”, you merely were referring to ethanol-gasoline blends, I suppose that’s one thing. Still, the existence of many vehicles capable of taking up to E85 (for several years now) has not yet resulted in an appreciable infrastructure of stations willing to actually sell it. I believe much of the popularity of ethanol-blend fuel comes from ill-advised government mandates in the first place (and old or bad science in the second place), so my “contingency plan” in this dream-world scenario would be to remove those incentives, not account for them. Regardless, I do not foresee a significant amount of gasoline being displaced by ethanol — much less any other biofuel — over the next decade.

    “In my own city, one large tax company fuels their fleet with natural gas.” An anecdote I’m sure would be well received by you had it not been written by you. Suffice it to say that the natural-gas-fueling infrastructure appears to be even smaller than the E85 fueling infrastructure (~1100 for the former in the whole country, of which half are for public use, compared to ~1800 E85 fueling stations, mainly in the Midwest).

    “Every major automaker is making and popularizing hybrids.” I still don’t think you understand how hybrids work. They aren’t charged up electrically — the batteries are ultimately powered by the gasoline.

    And, as I’ve already mentioned, the day in which electric vehicles make an appreciable dent in our gasoline consumption appears to be quite far off.

    In short, I really don’t see the need for a major change in our gas tax system based on those arguments. Now, as to this argument of yours:

    Soon, passenger fleets from all major automakers will average 35 mpg. A few decades ago, they averaged 15 – 20 mpg, at best.

    Um, wouldn’t that just suggest that for gasoline-powered cars — the overwhelming number of cars today, and, I argue, for the foreseeable future — we should adjust the gas tax rate to compensate for increased fuel efficiency?

  • Joe

    tODD, Don S and Cincy – It seems to me that you are arguing past each other. May I offer this to attempt to focus the discussion:

    1. tODD is offering a mathematical formula that by its very nature applies all axles of all weight classes.

    2. Thus, an SUV does exert more force or pressure (probably not the right term) on the road than a Mini Cooper.

    3. But the issue is this, does the increased force on the road caused by increase of weight of the SUV actually matter given that such damage is significantly less than the damage caused by commercial trucks. Put another way, does the presence of SUV’s actually matter to the life span of a road in light of the damage caused by commercial transport.

  • Joe

    tODD, Don S and Cincy – It seems to me that you are arguing past each other. May I offer this to attempt to focus the discussion:

    1. tODD is offering a mathematical formula that by its very nature applies all axles of all weight classes.

    2. Thus, an SUV does exert more force or pressure (probably not the right term) on the road than a Mini Cooper.

    3. But the issue is this, does the increased force on the road caused by increase of weight of the SUV actually matter given that such damage is significantly less than the damage caused by commercial trucks. Put another way, does the presence of SUV’s actually matter to the life span of a road in light of the damage caused by commercial transport.

  • Cincinnatus

    tODD, I know what a hybrid is, thanks.

    I apparently am more “optimistic” about the development and implementation of alternative fuels. Again, Honda markets a car in California–that is a prototype for future mass production models–that runs on hydrogen. It is made from natural gas–available in abundance domestically–and its only emission is…water. Gasoline stations in California have begun constructing “hydrogen pumps” in the areas where the FCX Clarity is leased. It’s a plausible model, much like the hybrid was only a few short years ago. You really don’t think alternatives like this are going to become much more popular in the relatively near future?

    Try funding our infrastructure on a gas tax when a substantial number of cars are running on electricity, propane, natural gas, ethanol, and/or (best of all) hydrogen–and the rest are hybrids that get 50+ miles per gallon and only have to fill up once per month. You can raise gasoline taxes to $15/gallon at that point and you won’t be able to fund roads.

  • Cincinnatus

    tODD, I know what a hybrid is, thanks.

    I apparently am more “optimistic” about the development and implementation of alternative fuels. Again, Honda markets a car in California–that is a prototype for future mass production models–that runs on hydrogen. It is made from natural gas–available in abundance domestically–and its only emission is…water. Gasoline stations in California have begun constructing “hydrogen pumps” in the areas where the FCX Clarity is leased. It’s a plausible model, much like the hybrid was only a few short years ago. You really don’t think alternatives like this are going to become much more popular in the relatively near future?

    Try funding our infrastructure on a gas tax when a substantial number of cars are running on electricity, propane, natural gas, ethanol, and/or (best of all) hydrogen–and the rest are hybrids that get 50+ miles per gallon and only have to fill up once per month. You can raise gasoline taxes to $15/gallon at that point and you won’t be able to fund roads.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “Try funding our infrastructure on a gas tax when a substantial number of cars are running on electricity, propane, natural gas, ethanol, and/or (best of all) hydrogen–and the rest are hybrids that get 50+ miles per gallon and only have to fill up once per month. You can raise gasoline taxes to $15/gallon at that point and you won’t be able to fund roads.”

    What about the usual annual registration fees? They could be taxed based on weight and odometer reading?

    Also, gas and registration taxes are not uniform now. So, mileage and registration taxes wouldn’t need to be uniform in the future.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “Try funding our infrastructure on a gas tax when a substantial number of cars are running on electricity, propane, natural gas, ethanol, and/or (best of all) hydrogen–and the rest are hybrids that get 50+ miles per gallon and only have to fill up once per month. You can raise gasoline taxes to $15/gallon at that point and you won’t be able to fund roads.”

    What about the usual annual registration fees? They could be taxed based on weight and odometer reading?

    Also, gas and registration taxes are not uniform now. So, mileage and registration taxes wouldn’t need to be uniform in the future.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Cincinnatus (@59), so, once again, it’s your “gut” vs. the studies I’ve pointed you to. Perhaps this is why you didn’t major in the hard sciences? ;)

    The new Volt weights ~3700 lbs. My SUV weights 4400 lbs. You really think I’m cracking the pavement much more than an eco-friendly driver in an econo-box?

    Sigh. Do I have to do the math for you again? Yes, given that your SUV weighs 1.19 times as much as the Volt, the study I’ve pointed you to repeatedly would suggest that your SUV incurs twice as much road wear. (If we must do spot comparisons between particular cars.) Can your gut handle that?

    Heavy commercial trucks cause more damage to the road surface than passenger cars and SUVs/personal trucks.

    A point I have never disputed — quite obviously, given the “fourth-power rule” I have, time and again, pointed you to. And yet, it is both you and Don who have insisted that SUVs do not incur more road wear than smaller cars — even as you (at least) insist that arguing such is “deeply irrelevant”! If the latter is true, then why are you (two) making these arguments?

    Large trucks already pay substantial additional user fees via weigh stations, etc., to use the roads.

    Yes, well, based on this study, they almost certainly don’t pay anywhere near enough, given that an 81,000-lb. semi incurs nearly 170,000 as much road damage as does a 4,000-lb. SUV. I’m strictly speculating here, but I’m willing to bet that the ratio of taxes paid (gas tax + weight tax for the semi, gas tax for the SUV) doesn’t even approach 170,000. Which means the semis are breaking it, but not really buying it.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Cincinnatus (@59), so, once again, it’s your “gut” vs. the studies I’ve pointed you to. Perhaps this is why you didn’t major in the hard sciences? ;)

    The new Volt weights ~3700 lbs. My SUV weights 4400 lbs. You really think I’m cracking the pavement much more than an eco-friendly driver in an econo-box?

    Sigh. Do I have to do the math for you again? Yes, given that your SUV weighs 1.19 times as much as the Volt, the study I’ve pointed you to repeatedly would suggest that your SUV incurs twice as much road wear. (If we must do spot comparisons between particular cars.) Can your gut handle that?

    Heavy commercial trucks cause more damage to the road surface than passenger cars and SUVs/personal trucks.

    A point I have never disputed — quite obviously, given the “fourth-power rule” I have, time and again, pointed you to. And yet, it is both you and Don who have insisted that SUVs do not incur more road wear than smaller cars — even as you (at least) insist that arguing such is “deeply irrelevant”! If the latter is true, then why are you (two) making these arguments?

    Large trucks already pay substantial additional user fees via weigh stations, etc., to use the roads.

    Yes, well, based on this study, they almost certainly don’t pay anywhere near enough, given that an 81,000-lb. semi incurs nearly 170,000 as much road damage as does a 4,000-lb. SUV. I’m strictly speculating here, but I’m willing to bet that the ratio of taxes paid (gas tax + weight tax for the semi, gas tax for the SUV) doesn’t even approach 170,000. Which means the semis are breaking it, but not really buying it.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Cincinnatus (@62), if you understand how hybrids work, then why did you toss them out as examples of cars that run on something other than gasoline?

    “You really don’t think alternatives like [the FCX Clarity] are going to become much more popular in the relatively near future?” Well, here’s what a Reuters article had to say merely about the car’s production in the near future:

    The car is likely to be sold commercially around 2018 in the luxury large sedan category, while the solar hydrogen refueling system could move beyond the research stage and into the market-ready phase around 2015.

    So it would seem that, in Honda’s best estimation, we won’t see them making a dent in our gasoline consumption for at least a decade. And that assumes an awful lot about the growth of hydrogen-fueling infrastructure (there appear to be 40 such stations in California right now, the state with the most by far). How is that anywhere near as “plausible” as the “hybrid model” — which, again, required no new fuel infrastructure?

    Also, I really don’t get your love for the hydrogen fuel cell. It’s ridiculously inefficient when compared to an electric vehicle, and it’s far easier to envision an infrastructure for fueling electric vehicles than ones that run on hydrogen. Besides, what energy source do you think was used to create all that hydrogen whose “only emission is…water”? (The likely answer: coal.)

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Cincinnatus (@62), if you understand how hybrids work, then why did you toss them out as examples of cars that run on something other than gasoline?

    “You really don’t think alternatives like [the FCX Clarity] are going to become much more popular in the relatively near future?” Well, here’s what a Reuters article had to say merely about the car’s production in the near future:

    The car is likely to be sold commercially around 2018 in the luxury large sedan category, while the solar hydrogen refueling system could move beyond the research stage and into the market-ready phase around 2015.

    So it would seem that, in Honda’s best estimation, we won’t see them making a dent in our gasoline consumption for at least a decade. And that assumes an awful lot about the growth of hydrogen-fueling infrastructure (there appear to be 40 such stations in California right now, the state with the most by far). How is that anywhere near as “plausible” as the “hybrid model” — which, again, required no new fuel infrastructure?

    Also, I really don’t get your love for the hydrogen fuel cell. It’s ridiculously inefficient when compared to an electric vehicle, and it’s far easier to envision an infrastructure for fueling electric vehicles than ones that run on hydrogen. Besides, what energy source do you think was used to create all that hydrogen whose “only emission is…water”? (The likely answer: coal.)

  • Cincinnatus

    tODD: For me, a decade is very much short-term when considering the future of transportation infrastructure. It often takes that long to plan and construct a simple highway interchange. Maybe that’s where the root of our disagreement lies. In that case, I agree: we aren’t going to wake up to American highways filled with fuel-cell and electric cars in five or even ten years. But within a generation? Maybe. And that’s why the DOT is sensibly looking ahead instead of believing that American infrastructure can continue to hobble along on a gas tax. A few years ago, hybrids were ridiculously expensive (and, in some ways, they still are). They are gradually approaching cost-effectiveness (i.e., soon the money I save in fuel purchases for a hybrid will justify and outweigh its additional cost). Why can’t the same thing happen with hydrogen or other electrically-driven cars when the manufacturing and fueling infrastructure are gradually developed, as they are being developed even as we speak?

    In other news, on what grounds are you claiming that hydrogen cells are “ridiculously inefficient when compared to an electric vehicle”? First, that’s just false. According to the Wiki article, the FCX clarity gets “60-72 miles per kilogram” of hydrogen, which apparently represents a figure at least double the efficiency of the average internal combustion engine. Second, the current model has a range of 240 miles per tank–more like a normal car, less like the restrictive 40-80 miles of current electric cars. Third, hydrogen is manufactured/extracted/produced from natural gas, of which the United States has trillions of cubic feet of proven reserves–enough to run the entire country for over a century according to the figures I’ve run across.

    Weren’t you the one demanding facts and studies?

  • Cincinnatus

    tODD: For me, a decade is very much short-term when considering the future of transportation infrastructure. It often takes that long to plan and construct a simple highway interchange. Maybe that’s where the root of our disagreement lies. In that case, I agree: we aren’t going to wake up to American highways filled with fuel-cell and electric cars in five or even ten years. But within a generation? Maybe. And that’s why the DOT is sensibly looking ahead instead of believing that American infrastructure can continue to hobble along on a gas tax. A few years ago, hybrids were ridiculously expensive (and, in some ways, they still are). They are gradually approaching cost-effectiveness (i.e., soon the money I save in fuel purchases for a hybrid will justify and outweigh its additional cost). Why can’t the same thing happen with hydrogen or other electrically-driven cars when the manufacturing and fueling infrastructure are gradually developed, as they are being developed even as we speak?

    In other news, on what grounds are you claiming that hydrogen cells are “ridiculously inefficient when compared to an electric vehicle”? First, that’s just false. According to the Wiki article, the FCX clarity gets “60-72 miles per kilogram” of hydrogen, which apparently represents a figure at least double the efficiency of the average internal combustion engine. Second, the current model has a range of 240 miles per tank–more like a normal car, less like the restrictive 40-80 miles of current electric cars. Third, hydrogen is manufactured/extracted/produced from natural gas, of which the United States has trillions of cubic feet of proven reserves–enough to run the entire country for over a century according to the figures I’ve run across.

    Weren’t you the one demanding facts and studies?

  • Cincinnatus

    Ooops, I see where you were comparing the efficiency of a hydrogen vehicle with an electric vehicle. My general point stands. But one reason hydrogen is more attractive is a) because it offers a much longer range (Americans wouldn’t have to reconfigure their entire lives and urban development patterns just to get themselves anywhere) and b) they don’t take 8 – 20 hours to charge.

  • Cincinnatus

    Ooops, I see where you were comparing the efficiency of a hydrogen vehicle with an electric vehicle. My general point stands. But one reason hydrogen is more attractive is a) because it offers a much longer range (Americans wouldn’t have to reconfigure their entire lives and urban development patterns just to get themselves anywhere) and b) they don’t take 8 – 20 hours to charge.

  • SKPeterson

    Don’t forget all the brownouts from 5 to 7pm in large metropolitan areas when everyone plugs their electric vehicle in. :) Also, the batteries on electrics don’t last forever and are very expensive – making up a large portion of the total vehicle cost. In some cases the batteries could go out before the car is paid for. While battery technology is advancing it is not yet that advanced and more research needs to be done. Also, the hook ups might be 220V, but it will still cost several hundred dollars to get a charger capable of actually getting a charge in the battery in 8 hours. A standard wall socket won’t suffice. Never mind the range restrictions. A better alternative would be the high-efficiency, high-mileage diesel engines being developed by VW – well over 150 mpg for a snazzy looking 2-seater: http://www.plugincars.com/volkswagen-xl1-whole-story-real-world-261-mpg-car-106721.htm.

    As to biofuels infrastructure, it is poorly located relative to where people live (where are the people? Florida, Texas, California. where are the E85 pumps? Minnesota), and the statistical data is extraordinarily sparse to actually make sufficient analysis of consumer buying/driving habits. Ethanol production is also spatially separate from the petroleum production and distribution infrastructure – requiring biofuels to ship in large volumes only by rail, and then by truck. Also, many of the producing ethanol plants are first-generation facilities that produce 50mgy or less and thus cannot achieve the economies of scale required for them to affect national ethanol fuels markets – their production will, over time, be restricted to rural and urban centers that can be reached by truck. Upshot – great if you live in Iowa, Minnesota or Illinois. If you’re more than 500 miles away – your options are more limited, unless and until cellulosic technology becomes cost effective. Right now it looks like it’s on fusion’s timeline for delivery.

  • SKPeterson

    Don’t forget all the brownouts from 5 to 7pm in large metropolitan areas when everyone plugs their electric vehicle in. :) Also, the batteries on electrics don’t last forever and are very expensive – making up a large portion of the total vehicle cost. In some cases the batteries could go out before the car is paid for. While battery technology is advancing it is not yet that advanced and more research needs to be done. Also, the hook ups might be 220V, but it will still cost several hundred dollars to get a charger capable of actually getting a charge in the battery in 8 hours. A standard wall socket won’t suffice. Never mind the range restrictions. A better alternative would be the high-efficiency, high-mileage diesel engines being developed by VW – well over 150 mpg for a snazzy looking 2-seater: http://www.plugincars.com/volkswagen-xl1-whole-story-real-world-261-mpg-car-106721.htm.

    As to biofuels infrastructure, it is poorly located relative to where people live (where are the people? Florida, Texas, California. where are the E85 pumps? Minnesota), and the statistical data is extraordinarily sparse to actually make sufficient analysis of consumer buying/driving habits. Ethanol production is also spatially separate from the petroleum production and distribution infrastructure – requiring biofuels to ship in large volumes only by rail, and then by truck. Also, many of the producing ethanol plants are first-generation facilities that produce 50mgy or less and thus cannot achieve the economies of scale required for them to affect national ethanol fuels markets – their production will, over time, be restricted to rural and urban centers that can be reached by truck. Upshot – great if you live in Iowa, Minnesota or Illinois. If you’re more than 500 miles away – your options are more limited, unless and until cellulosic technology becomes cost effective. Right now it looks like it’s on fusion’s timeline for delivery.

  • SKPeterson

    Hydrogen infrastructure is also limited, obviously. There is an interesting proposal that Mike Kuby at Arizona State did for the state of Florida that would seek to develop an infrastructure system based primarily on the rental car market and the Disney, Universal entertainment cluster. Sorry, I can only provide the cite: Kuby, M., L. Lines, R. Schultz, Z. Xie, J. Kim and S. Lim. 2009. Optimal Location Strategy for Hydrogen Refueling Stations in Florida. International Journal of Hydrogen Energy 34: 6045-6064.

    If anyone is interested, I may be able to get a pdf or powerpoint of a presentation Mike did, but basically this idea has been going nowhere. Iceland tried something similar but abandoned the idea (then again, it’s Iceland, so…)

  • SKPeterson

    Hydrogen infrastructure is also limited, obviously. There is an interesting proposal that Mike Kuby at Arizona State did for the state of Florida that would seek to develop an infrastructure system based primarily on the rental car market and the Disney, Universal entertainment cluster. Sorry, I can only provide the cite: Kuby, M., L. Lines, R. Schultz, Z. Xie, J. Kim and S. Lim. 2009. Optimal Location Strategy for Hydrogen Refueling Stations in Florida. International Journal of Hydrogen Energy 34: 6045-6064.

    If anyone is interested, I may be able to get a pdf or powerpoint of a presentation Mike did, but basically this idea has been going nowhere. Iceland tried something similar but abandoned the idea (then again, it’s Iceland, so…)

  • Booklover

    They’re going to tax all the fat people piling into the 4000 lb. SUV, making it weigh as much as an 80,000 lb. semi.

    That won’t be enough, so they will tax the fatty fast foods that made the fat people fat that climbed into the SUV that made it as fat as the semi.

    Sing that three times, fast.

  • Booklover

    They’re going to tax all the fat people piling into the 4000 lb. SUV, making it weigh as much as an 80,000 lb. semi.

    That won’t be enough, so they will tax the fatty fast foods that made the fat people fat that climbed into the SUV that made it as fat as the semi.

    Sing that three times, fast.

  • DonS

    tODD @ 57: Well, I could not confirm, in the time available, that there is hard data from the AASHO studies in the 1950′s, or elsewhere, down to 4,000 lb GVW, as you claim. This is one thing I found: http://training.ce.washington.edu/wsdot/Modules/04_design_parameters/04-3_body.htm which explains the basis for ESAL ratings, at the root of the findings of the AASHO studies in Section 3.6.

    So, the bottom line is that I think we all agree that SUV’s inflict negligible road damage relative to trucks. As noted in the reference I cited, a vehicle having 2,000 lb single axle weight has an ESAL of 0.0003, whereas a truck having 18,000 lb single axle weight has an ESAL of 1.0. I don’t know if these ESAL’s are extrapolated or based on hard data. But, regardless, using these charts, it can be seen that it would take an estimated 3,333 trips by a 4,000 lb SUV to equal the road damage inflicted by one 36,000 lb truck having two single axles. That’s de minimus damage, imo, which was the whole point of my original post.

  • DonS

    tODD @ 57: Well, I could not confirm, in the time available, that there is hard data from the AASHO studies in the 1950′s, or elsewhere, down to 4,000 lb GVW, as you claim. This is one thing I found: http://training.ce.washington.edu/wsdot/Modules/04_design_parameters/04-3_body.htm which explains the basis for ESAL ratings, at the root of the findings of the AASHO studies in Section 3.6.

    So, the bottom line is that I think we all agree that SUV’s inflict negligible road damage relative to trucks. As noted in the reference I cited, a vehicle having 2,000 lb single axle weight has an ESAL of 0.0003, whereas a truck having 18,000 lb single axle weight has an ESAL of 1.0. I don’t know if these ESAL’s are extrapolated or based on hard data. But, regardless, using these charts, it can be seen that it would take an estimated 3,333 trips by a 4,000 lb SUV to equal the road damage inflicted by one 36,000 lb truck having two single axles. That’s de minimus damage, imo, which was the whole point of my original post.

  • DonS

    SG @ 58: Paying for the public goods we all use is not punitive. Taxing bad behavior that has expensive consequences borne by the whole group is not punitive. It just covers the costs. Now, if we don’t want to cover those costs, that is another ball game. Clean air is not an intangible. Resource management is also a form of public good.

    You’ve pretty much ignored the issues I raised concerning where this “public good” idea stops, who decides what is and is not a public good, and who decides that the behavior of a particular citizen or group is not one. How “clean” does air have to be to be “clean”? Is “clean” defined as an absence of particulates, or can someone invent a theory that carbon dioxide is not a public good, and then impose their ideas and theories on the rest of society? Is it more of a public good for a single person to drive a small hybrid to a bookstore, or for a mom to drive her five kids to church in an SUV? Is it right for goverment to arbitrarily impose a $6 per gallon tax on fuel to curb the mobility of that mom, just because someone has decided that the single hybrid driver is more righteous? Why don’t we abolish the tax exemptions for churches, on the basis that some will fail, resulting in fewer people driving to them on Sundays and fouling our air, while also depleting our non-renewable resources? What do we do with folks who live in rural towns and communities which cannot survive $10/gallon gas, suddenly imposed on them because certain of us think that’s in the best interest of society?

    I agree that paying for the public goods we all use is not punitive. Where we disagree is on the idea that pricing those goods far above their actual cost for the purpose of curbing certain behaviors is not punitive. Managing resources is a good thing. Withholding them from the market without offering a compatible alternative available at a similar cost and convenience is damaging to the economy, quality of life, and the well being of our more vulnerable citizens. That is not the role of government. A more appropriate role of government is to assist in the development of new energy supplies, both old and new, so that when the time comes that our current fossil fuels truly are scarce, viable replacements are ready that will not shock the economy or our way of life.

  • DonS

    SG @ 58: Paying for the public goods we all use is not punitive. Taxing bad behavior that has expensive consequences borne by the whole group is not punitive. It just covers the costs. Now, if we don’t want to cover those costs, that is another ball game. Clean air is not an intangible. Resource management is also a form of public good.

    You’ve pretty much ignored the issues I raised concerning where this “public good” idea stops, who decides what is and is not a public good, and who decides that the behavior of a particular citizen or group is not one. How “clean” does air have to be to be “clean”? Is “clean” defined as an absence of particulates, or can someone invent a theory that carbon dioxide is not a public good, and then impose their ideas and theories on the rest of society? Is it more of a public good for a single person to drive a small hybrid to a bookstore, or for a mom to drive her five kids to church in an SUV? Is it right for goverment to arbitrarily impose a $6 per gallon tax on fuel to curb the mobility of that mom, just because someone has decided that the single hybrid driver is more righteous? Why don’t we abolish the tax exemptions for churches, on the basis that some will fail, resulting in fewer people driving to them on Sundays and fouling our air, while also depleting our non-renewable resources? What do we do with folks who live in rural towns and communities which cannot survive $10/gallon gas, suddenly imposed on them because certain of us think that’s in the best interest of society?

    I agree that paying for the public goods we all use is not punitive. Where we disagree is on the idea that pricing those goods far above their actual cost for the purpose of curbing certain behaviors is not punitive. Managing resources is a good thing. Withholding them from the market without offering a compatible alternative available at a similar cost and convenience is damaging to the economy, quality of life, and the well being of our more vulnerable citizens. That is not the role of government. A more appropriate role of government is to assist in the development of new energy supplies, both old and new, so that when the time comes that our current fossil fuels truly are scarce, viable replacements are ready that will not shock the economy or our way of life.

  • Louis

    Booklover, brilliant :)

  • Louis

    Booklover, brilliant :)

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “Where we disagree is on the idea that pricing those goods far above their actual cost for the purpose of curbing certain behaviors is not punitive.”

    Don, to have an honest discussion on whether the goods are under or over priced, we would have to know the infrastructure costs etc. I don’t know that. Do you? If roads cost more than the total collected in gas taxes, then the gas taxes are too low. I am assuming that is the case, but I am not absolutely sure. Clean air is a little harder because the cost ends up elsewhere. Resource depletion is even harder to price, but it does have a cost, albeit not immediately or uniformly.

    “You’ve pretty much ignored the issues I raised concerning where this “public good” idea stops, who decides what is and is not a public good, and who decides that the behavior of a particular citizen or group is not one.”

    I didn’t ignore it. I explained that if the public is going to bear the cost for something, then we will have to pay taxes. I think it is most appropriate to tax the behaviors that lead to the costs. Now, we don’t have to choose to cover certain things, but if we are, we have to figure out where the money is coming from. It is not punitive to tax gas to pay for roads, even if the taxes are so high that people are motivated to buy gas saving cars because they cannot afford to gas up a bigger car.

    And yes, this all rests on the assumptions that roads cost more than we pay in gas taxes, that pollution should be discouraged and resources conserved for posterity. If any or all of those are not valid, then, yeah, you could make the point that the taxes are punitive.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “Where we disagree is on the idea that pricing those goods far above their actual cost for the purpose of curbing certain behaviors is not punitive.”

    Don, to have an honest discussion on whether the goods are under or over priced, we would have to know the infrastructure costs etc. I don’t know that. Do you? If roads cost more than the total collected in gas taxes, then the gas taxes are too low. I am assuming that is the case, but I am not absolutely sure. Clean air is a little harder because the cost ends up elsewhere. Resource depletion is even harder to price, but it does have a cost, albeit not immediately or uniformly.

    “You’ve pretty much ignored the issues I raised concerning where this “public good” idea stops, who decides what is and is not a public good, and who decides that the behavior of a particular citizen or group is not one.”

    I didn’t ignore it. I explained that if the public is going to bear the cost for something, then we will have to pay taxes. I think it is most appropriate to tax the behaviors that lead to the costs. Now, we don’t have to choose to cover certain things, but if we are, we have to figure out where the money is coming from. It is not punitive to tax gas to pay for roads, even if the taxes are so high that people are motivated to buy gas saving cars because they cannot afford to gas up a bigger car.

    And yes, this all rests on the assumptions that roads cost more than we pay in gas taxes, that pollution should be discouraged and resources conserved for posterity. If any or all of those are not valid, then, yeah, you could make the point that the taxes are punitive.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “So, the bottom line is that I think we all agree that SUV’s inflict negligible road damage relative to trucks. As noted in the reference I cited, a vehicle having 2,000 lb single axle weight has an ESAL of 0.0003,”

    No, we can’t agree on that. As tODD noted, the 2000 lb axle weight does twice as much damage as the lighter vehicle. So, if that is 0.0003, then the lighter car only does 0.00015. Just because these numbers are small, they are not zero and they are multiplied many many times because of all the trips and vehicles.

    To get down to negligible territory, you would have to go down to pedestrian traffic which probably causes less wear than weathering.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “So, the bottom line is that I think we all agree that SUV’s inflict negligible road damage relative to trucks. As noted in the reference I cited, a vehicle having 2,000 lb single axle weight has an ESAL of 0.0003,”

    No, we can’t agree on that. As tODD noted, the 2000 lb axle weight does twice as much damage as the lighter vehicle. So, if that is 0.0003, then the lighter car only does 0.00015. Just because these numbers are small, they are not zero and they are multiplied many many times because of all the trips and vehicles.

    To get down to negligible territory, you would have to go down to pedestrian traffic which probably causes less wear than weathering.

  • Cincinnatus

    sg: But now we’re back where we started–namely, the fact that the gas tax is an inadequate mechanism for funding transportation infrastructure. Particularly as gasoline usage steadily decreases–which it will, I assure you–while road miles increase, one cannot merely pursue the canard of raising fuel taxes in perpetuum. It just won’t work, aside from being a burden on the middle and lower classes.

    Personally, as a general schema, I agree that we should tax vehicles based upon how much they use the roads–hence the idea of a mileage tax. I also agree that those vehicles which do more damage to roads should pay more, but that is a schema that is only practicable within very circumscribed limits. Sure, it makes sense to place a surcharge on semi-trucks or delivery trucks that approach the legal limits of what pavement can withstand without cracking (usually 80k lbs.; in Florida, though, I notice it was recently raised to 88k lbs.; in Wisconsin in deepest winter, they can be, I think, 112k lbs.). And we already do this. What does not make sense, in terms of policy implementation and practicality, is parsing out Class D passenger vehicles into daughter’s subcompact, Dad’s sedan, and Mom’s minivan–and taxing them all at a different rate, which I assume would be determined by some formulaic combination of mileage and weight.

    Or maybe the latter scenario is completely practicable. The point, however, is that the gas tax is an increasingly outmoded source of revenue, such that many in both state and federal DOT’s don’t even speak in terms of merely raising it but of replacing it altogether.

  • Cincinnatus

    sg: But now we’re back where we started–namely, the fact that the gas tax is an inadequate mechanism for funding transportation infrastructure. Particularly as gasoline usage steadily decreases–which it will, I assure you–while road miles increase, one cannot merely pursue the canard of raising fuel taxes in perpetuum. It just won’t work, aside from being a burden on the middle and lower classes.

    Personally, as a general schema, I agree that we should tax vehicles based upon how much they use the roads–hence the idea of a mileage tax. I also agree that those vehicles which do more damage to roads should pay more, but that is a schema that is only practicable within very circumscribed limits. Sure, it makes sense to place a surcharge on semi-trucks or delivery trucks that approach the legal limits of what pavement can withstand without cracking (usually 80k lbs.; in Florida, though, I notice it was recently raised to 88k lbs.; in Wisconsin in deepest winter, they can be, I think, 112k lbs.). And we already do this. What does not make sense, in terms of policy implementation and practicality, is parsing out Class D passenger vehicles into daughter’s subcompact, Dad’s sedan, and Mom’s minivan–and taxing them all at a different rate, which I assume would be determined by some formulaic combination of mileage and weight.

    Or maybe the latter scenario is completely practicable. The point, however, is that the gas tax is an increasingly outmoded source of revenue, such that many in both state and federal DOT’s don’t even speak in terms of merely raising it but of replacing it altogether.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “What does not make sense, in terms of policy implementation and practicality, is parsing out Class D passenger vehicles into daughter’s subcompact, Dad’s sedan, and Mom’s minivan–and taxing them all at a different rate, which I assume would be determined by some formulaic combination of mileage and weight.”

    Each state already does its own different fees. So some could do it that way if they wanted. Others could have have higher gas taxes or some combination. Some counties could have higher or lower taxes so as not to be a burden on their communities. People really can figure this out.

    “the gas tax is an inadequate mechanism for funding transportation infrastructure.”

    Why?

    Particularly as gasoline usage steadily decreases–which it will, I assure you–while road miles increase,”

    Why?

    “one cannot merely pursue the canard of raising fuel taxes in perpetuum.”

    Why?

    “It just won’t work, aside from being a burden on the middle and lower classes.”

    Why?

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “What does not make sense, in terms of policy implementation and practicality, is parsing out Class D passenger vehicles into daughter’s subcompact, Dad’s sedan, and Mom’s minivan–and taxing them all at a different rate, which I assume would be determined by some formulaic combination of mileage and weight.”

    Each state already does its own different fees. So some could do it that way if they wanted. Others could have have higher gas taxes or some combination. Some counties could have higher or lower taxes so as not to be a burden on their communities. People really can figure this out.

    “the gas tax is an inadequate mechanism for funding transportation infrastructure.”

    Why?

    Particularly as gasoline usage steadily decreases–which it will, I assure you–while road miles increase,”

    Why?

    “one cannot merely pursue the canard of raising fuel taxes in perpetuum.”

    Why?

    “It just won’t work, aside from being a burden on the middle and lower classes.”

    Why?

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “The point, however, is that the gas tax is an increasingly outmoded source of revenue, such that many in both state and federal DOT’s don’t even speak in terms of merely raising it but of replacing it altogether.”

    Is that because that more and more those who use the roads cannot afford to pay for roads?

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “The point, however, is that the gas tax is an increasingly outmoded source of revenue, such that many in both state and federal DOT’s don’t even speak in terms of merely raising it but of replacing it altogether.”

    Is that because that more and more those who use the roads cannot afford to pay for roads?

  • DonS

    SG @ 74: Don, to have an honest discussion on whether the goods are under or over priced, we would have to know the infrastructure costs etc. I don’t know that. Do you? If roads cost more than the total collected in gas taxes, then the gas taxes are too low.

    No, I don’t know the infrastructure costs. It’s not my job. But the highway agencies responsible for them do. Infrastructure costs are knowable, and gas taxes, or suitable substitutes such as mileage taxes, should be set to recover those costs. The problem is both that politicians don’t want to do that properly, sometimes because they will be perceived as raising taxes and more often because they are misappropriating those dedicated funds for other purposes.

    I don’t believe the user taxes for streets and highways should fully recover infrastructure costs, even if it means a tax increase, but should not include levies for air pollution and resource depletion. Almost every activity we engage in has ancillary and often unknowable impacts on our environment and society. Those impacts are unquantifiable. The transportation industry has made incredible strides in cleaning up auto emissions, and the residual pollution created by vehicular traffic, to the extent it requires mitigation, should be addressed by society at large. To attempt to assess arbitrary taxes on various industries to pay for environmental mitigation not quantifiable nor directly attributable to those industries is a fool’s errand and a recipe for political mischief and gamesmanship, where the government picks losers and winners in accordance with its own political priorities. Those who desire a free society do not want that scenario, for the reasons that I have discussed above and that you still haven’t really addressed (for example — explaining who is going to equitably determine whether a mom driving her five children in an SUV is engaging in “wasteful excess”, as you put it). As for resource depletion, the market handles that issue perfectly well through pricing mechanisms. That is economics 101 — as a resource grows more scarce, its price goes up and its consumption goes down.

  • DonS

    SG @ 74: Don, to have an honest discussion on whether the goods are under or over priced, we would have to know the infrastructure costs etc. I don’t know that. Do you? If roads cost more than the total collected in gas taxes, then the gas taxes are too low.

    No, I don’t know the infrastructure costs. It’s not my job. But the highway agencies responsible for them do. Infrastructure costs are knowable, and gas taxes, or suitable substitutes such as mileage taxes, should be set to recover those costs. The problem is both that politicians don’t want to do that properly, sometimes because they will be perceived as raising taxes and more often because they are misappropriating those dedicated funds for other purposes.

    I don’t believe the user taxes for streets and highways should fully recover infrastructure costs, even if it means a tax increase, but should not include levies for air pollution and resource depletion. Almost every activity we engage in has ancillary and often unknowable impacts on our environment and society. Those impacts are unquantifiable. The transportation industry has made incredible strides in cleaning up auto emissions, and the residual pollution created by vehicular traffic, to the extent it requires mitigation, should be addressed by society at large. To attempt to assess arbitrary taxes on various industries to pay for environmental mitigation not quantifiable nor directly attributable to those industries is a fool’s errand and a recipe for political mischief and gamesmanship, where the government picks losers and winners in accordance with its own political priorities. Those who desire a free society do not want that scenario, for the reasons that I have discussed above and that you still haven’t really addressed (for example — explaining who is going to equitably determine whether a mom driving her five children in an SUV is engaging in “wasteful excess”, as you put it). As for resource depletion, the market handles that issue perfectly well through pricing mechanisms. That is economics 101 — as a resource grows more scarce, its price goes up and its consumption goes down.

  • DonS

    SG @ 75, 77: What Cincinnatus and I have been saying is that the damage to roads imparted by a personal vehicle in a single trip is negligible, whether it be 2,000 lbs or 5,000 lbs. Too small to effectively quantify, and too small to impose a complex levy system charging different amounts for each passenger vehicle depending upon its weight. To impose such a levy system would not be for the purpose of recovering infrastructure costs, which are practically the same no matter the size of the personal vehicle, but rather for the purpose of attempting to influence people to buy smaller vehicles. That is not the business of government. And that kind of social engineering is outside of the purview of a responsible government that truly values the liberties of its citizens. Larger families need larger vehicles, and government should not be involved in assessing unnecessary costs on families already struggling with the ordinary high cost of living for raising children in this world just to satisfy environmental extremists.

  • DonS

    SG @ 75, 77: What Cincinnatus and I have been saying is that the damage to roads imparted by a personal vehicle in a single trip is negligible, whether it be 2,000 lbs or 5,000 lbs. Too small to effectively quantify, and too small to impose a complex levy system charging different amounts for each passenger vehicle depending upon its weight. To impose such a levy system would not be for the purpose of recovering infrastructure costs, which are practically the same no matter the size of the personal vehicle, but rather for the purpose of attempting to influence people to buy smaller vehicles. That is not the business of government. And that kind of social engineering is outside of the purview of a responsible government that truly values the liberties of its citizens. Larger families need larger vehicles, and government should not be involved in assessing unnecessary costs on families already struggling with the ordinary high cost of living for raising children in this world just to satisfy environmental extremists.

  • DonS

    SG @ 78: The answer to your question is no. The reason why the gas tax is considered to be outmoded is because it is based on the fuel economy of vehicles decades ago. As fuel economy has improved, drivers are paying smaller and smaller amounts per mile, to the point where they are not paying enough to maintain the roads. By shifting to another form of assessment, such as the mileage tax, the variable of fuel economy, and also the variable of alternative fuels not subject to present fuel taxes, are each taken out of the equation.

  • DonS

    SG @ 78: The answer to your question is no. The reason why the gas tax is considered to be outmoded is because it is based on the fuel economy of vehicles decades ago. As fuel economy has improved, drivers are paying smaller and smaller amounts per mile, to the point where they are not paying enough to maintain the roads. By shifting to another form of assessment, such as the mileage tax, the variable of fuel economy, and also the variable of alternative fuels not subject to present fuel taxes, are each taken out of the equation.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    DonS (@71) said:

    Well, I could not confirm, in the time available, that there is hard data from the AASHO studies in the 1950′s, or elsewhere, down to 4,000 lb GVW, as you claim.

    Given how much time you have found to comment here on this blog after that sentence, I have a really hard time believing that you just couldn’t squeeze in the time to scan the two sources in the footnotes I gave you earlier (@59). At what point do I just give up and assume you obstinately refuse to acknowledge this data because of your own personal issues? You seem to think that no formula is accurate unless it was derived from an empirical data point that we’re trying to assess — which sort of misses the point of why we make such formulas, and is completely ridiculous in a scientific/engineering setting, to boot.

    Anyhow, yes, passenger vehicles inflict vastly less damage than heavy trucks. No, “vastly less” is not equal to zero. One might also notice that there are vastly more passenger vehicles on any given stretch of road than there are heavy trucks.

    And while your reply to SG (@72) was full of a number of wild straw men (and not a little persecution complex), you also asked, “can someone invent a theory that carbon dioxide is not a public good, and then impose their ideas and theories on the rest of society?” You mean like how someone invented a theory that lead, benzene, and sulfur dioxide are not a public good, and then imposed their ideas and theories on the rest of society?

    And why is it that “conservatives” always laugh at the apocalyptic theories offered up by climate-change scientists, yet have no problem offering up their own speculative, apocalyptic theories when it comes to gas-price change?

    Where we disagree is on the idea that pricing those goods far above their actual cost for the purpose of curbing certain behaviors is not punitive.

    But what is “their actual cost”, and how did you assess that? Should we factor in the health costs caused by pollution from gasoline use? Should we factor in the wars that take place in countries we’d otherwise not give a hoot about, except that they have a lot of oil? How much of that should go into the gas tax?

    A more appropriate role of government is to assist in the development of new energy supplies.

    In what way is that a “conservative” suggestion? Why shouldn’t that be left to private enterprise? You sound like a liberal statist, Don.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    DonS (@71) said:

    Well, I could not confirm, in the time available, that there is hard data from the AASHO studies in the 1950′s, or elsewhere, down to 4,000 lb GVW, as you claim.

    Given how much time you have found to comment here on this blog after that sentence, I have a really hard time believing that you just couldn’t squeeze in the time to scan the two sources in the footnotes I gave you earlier (@59). At what point do I just give up and assume you obstinately refuse to acknowledge this data because of your own personal issues? You seem to think that no formula is accurate unless it was derived from an empirical data point that we’re trying to assess — which sort of misses the point of why we make such formulas, and is completely ridiculous in a scientific/engineering setting, to boot.

    Anyhow, yes, passenger vehicles inflict vastly less damage than heavy trucks. No, “vastly less” is not equal to zero. One might also notice that there are vastly more passenger vehicles on any given stretch of road than there are heavy trucks.

    And while your reply to SG (@72) was full of a number of wild straw men (and not a little persecution complex), you also asked, “can someone invent a theory that carbon dioxide is not a public good, and then impose their ideas and theories on the rest of society?” You mean like how someone invented a theory that lead, benzene, and sulfur dioxide are not a public good, and then imposed their ideas and theories on the rest of society?

    And why is it that “conservatives” always laugh at the apocalyptic theories offered up by climate-change scientists, yet have no problem offering up their own speculative, apocalyptic theories when it comes to gas-price change?

    Where we disagree is on the idea that pricing those goods far above their actual cost for the purpose of curbing certain behaviors is not punitive.

    But what is “their actual cost”, and how did you assess that? Should we factor in the health costs caused by pollution from gasoline use? Should we factor in the wars that take place in countries we’d otherwise not give a hoot about, except that they have a lot of oil? How much of that should go into the gas tax?

    A more appropriate role of government is to assist in the development of new energy supplies.

    In what way is that a “conservative” suggestion? Why shouldn’t that be left to private enterprise? You sound like a liberal statist, Don.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    Lessee….the government decides to use commercial GPS technology (annualized failure rate of 15%) to track everywhere each citizen goes with complicated algorithms. What could possibly go wrong? It’s not like there’s a 4th Amendment in the Constitution that ought to prevent this, is there?

    I can’t speak for everyone here, but I’m personally looking forward to the first time I get billed for driving a billion miles in a month, or the first time I’m arrested for being some place I’ve never visited!

    Regarding road damage, it’s worth noting that the studies tODD cites are simply an experimental result, and do not take into account other factors that could influence road damage; things like studded tires, suspension type, and the width/footprint of the tire. If pressure/shock generates damage to concrete, a high pressure tire on a hybrid will generate more damage than a similarly loaded tire on an SUV, which will be wider.

    Don’t get me wrong; I tend to agree with the idea that weight/tire is a good proxy for road damage (this is also why taxing bicycles is an asinine idea), but I also remember that when I lived in Colorado, the ruts in I-70 and I-25 were spaced at the width of a Subaru with studded tires, not the width of a semi tractor-trailer. There are other factors at work. (keep the gas tax, but tax commercial vehicles and studded tires, too)

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    Lessee….the government decides to use commercial GPS technology (annualized failure rate of 15%) to track everywhere each citizen goes with complicated algorithms. What could possibly go wrong? It’s not like there’s a 4th Amendment in the Constitution that ought to prevent this, is there?

    I can’t speak for everyone here, but I’m personally looking forward to the first time I get billed for driving a billion miles in a month, or the first time I’m arrested for being some place I’ve never visited!

    Regarding road damage, it’s worth noting that the studies tODD cites are simply an experimental result, and do not take into account other factors that could influence road damage; things like studded tires, suspension type, and the width/footprint of the tire. If pressure/shock generates damage to concrete, a high pressure tire on a hybrid will generate more damage than a similarly loaded tire on an SUV, which will be wider.

    Don’t get me wrong; I tend to agree with the idea that weight/tire is a good proxy for road damage (this is also why taxing bicycles is an asinine idea), but I also remember that when I lived in Colorado, the ruts in I-70 and I-25 were spaced at the width of a Subaru with studded tires, not the width of a semi tractor-trailer. There are other factors at work. (keep the gas tax, but tax commercial vehicles and studded tires, too)

  • DonS

    tODD @ 82: I conceded your point. That is why I didn’t bother wading through more documents last night. I found charts and graphs showing the correlation, which I quoted above, but not the raw data. But, since you and I have agreed that the formula shows the damage imposed by passenger vehicles is necessarily de minimus, since it exponentially decreases based upon a linear decrease in axle weight, there was no reason to waste further time researching the data. It’s a moot point. De minimus is certainly not zero. Even roller skates inflict some minute damage on a roadway. But it is insufficient to exact any significant infrastructure costs on our transit system, and thus does not require direct compensation. Weather and time inflict far more damage on roads than do single passenger vehicles.

    The rest of your post is asked and answered. There is a certain unquantifiable cost to living in a society which must be borne by the society at large. To attempt to parse that cost out to various people and activities, without hard data as to how the costs should actually be attributed, and with no direct link to the behavior of those people or the exercise of those activities, is a recipe for political mischief, the picking of winners and losers based on raw political power and influence, which threatens to strip away liberties and freedoms, and to burden society far more than the advantage of any potential recovery.

    And as for your last comment, to “assist” means to encourage, and to get out of the way of private efforts to develop energy supplies, not to fund. Let people develop the vast energy resources that we already have. Structure the tax system to encourage, rather than discourage, U.S. activity and research efforts to develop new, more sustainable energy. Get rid of boondoggles, like ethanol subsidies and mandates, which divert resources from more productive and useful energy research and development. Hardly “liberal statist”.

  • DonS

    tODD @ 82: I conceded your point. That is why I didn’t bother wading through more documents last night. I found charts and graphs showing the correlation, which I quoted above, but not the raw data. But, since you and I have agreed that the formula shows the damage imposed by passenger vehicles is necessarily de minimus, since it exponentially decreases based upon a linear decrease in axle weight, there was no reason to waste further time researching the data. It’s a moot point. De minimus is certainly not zero. Even roller skates inflict some minute damage on a roadway. But it is insufficient to exact any significant infrastructure costs on our transit system, and thus does not require direct compensation. Weather and time inflict far more damage on roads than do single passenger vehicles.

    The rest of your post is asked and answered. There is a certain unquantifiable cost to living in a society which must be borne by the society at large. To attempt to parse that cost out to various people and activities, without hard data as to how the costs should actually be attributed, and with no direct link to the behavior of those people or the exercise of those activities, is a recipe for political mischief, the picking of winners and losers based on raw political power and influence, which threatens to strip away liberties and freedoms, and to burden society far more than the advantage of any potential recovery.

    And as for your last comment, to “assist” means to encourage, and to get out of the way of private efforts to develop energy supplies, not to fund. Let people develop the vast energy resources that we already have. Structure the tax system to encourage, rather than discourage, U.S. activity and research efforts to develop new, more sustainable energy. Get rid of boondoggles, like ethanol subsidies and mandates, which divert resources from more productive and useful energy research and development. Hardly “liberal statist”.

  • DonS

    Bubba @ 83: Aren’t studded tires outlawed in most states?

  • DonS

    Bubba @ 83: Aren’t studded tires outlawed in most states?

  • Cincinnatus

    This conversation is strikingly odd. I feel as if I’ve been transported to an alternate Cranach universe in which I, along with DonS, play the progressives to tODD’s conservatism. Meanwhile, sg is, as usual, a wild card.

    To wit, I, along with many DOT analysts, believe that the gas tax is insufficient to fund our current infrastructure and that increasing usage of alternative fuels and propulsion systems will render it increasingly inequitable and useless as a revenue source. tODD and sg seem to disagree, for largely unspecified reasons. Could either or both of your clarify your stance on the gas tax, along with noting what, if anything, you would change about current infrastructure funding policies?

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems that both of you are simply arguing for MOAR TAXES–specifically, the same taxes we already use. As I’ve pointed out, raising the gas tax, if we think in terms of decades rather than years, is at best a temporary stopgap–and a regressive tax at that. Please advise.

  • Cincinnatus

    This conversation is strikingly odd. I feel as if I’ve been transported to an alternate Cranach universe in which I, along with DonS, play the progressives to tODD’s conservatism. Meanwhile, sg is, as usual, a wild card.

    To wit, I, along with many DOT analysts, believe that the gas tax is insufficient to fund our current infrastructure and that increasing usage of alternative fuels and propulsion systems will render it increasingly inequitable and useless as a revenue source. tODD and sg seem to disagree, for largely unspecified reasons. Could either or both of your clarify your stance on the gas tax, along with noting what, if anything, you would change about current infrastructure funding policies?

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems that both of you are simply arguing for MOAR TAXES–specifically, the same taxes we already use. As I’ve pointed out, raising the gas tax, if we think in terms of decades rather than years, is at best a temporary stopgap–and a regressive tax at that. Please advise.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    DonS asked (@85), “Aren’t studded tires outlawed in most states?” Well, you do live in southern California…

    In short, no. They’re allowed in Oregon during the winter season, which is usually defined to be absurdly long. And yes, they do massive amounts of damage to the road that is in no way covered by whatever fees that might accompany their purchase.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    DonS asked (@85), “Aren’t studded tires outlawed in most states?” Well, you do live in southern California…

    In short, no. They’re allowed in Oregon during the winter season, which is usually defined to be absurdly long. And yes, they do massive amounts of damage to the road that is in no way covered by whatever fees that might accompany their purchase.

  • Cincinnatus

    The reason for my last comment is this: We’ve spent a lot of space and time on this thread disagreeing over comparatively nothing. All of us agree that those who use the roads should pay for it via some form of use tax. All of us agree that heavier vehicles damage roads more than lighter vehicles, and that thus heavier vehicles should probably contribute more to the maintenance of roads. All of us agree that the tax structure we have now is inadequate.

    So let’s name the real disagreement. As I have oft-repeated, I think the gasoline tax is increasingly outmoded and should not be raised but rather replaced with some other taxation system–preferably a mileage tax of some kind (although if we all went to hydrogen, it could just be replaced by a hydrogen tax, no? wishful thinking). But I’m really uncertain about where tODD and sg stand on this question, in the midst of all the pointless bickering over mathematical formulae and greenhouse gases.

  • Cincinnatus

    The reason for my last comment is this: We’ve spent a lot of space and time on this thread disagreeing over comparatively nothing. All of us agree that those who use the roads should pay for it via some form of use tax. All of us agree that heavier vehicles damage roads more than lighter vehicles, and that thus heavier vehicles should probably contribute more to the maintenance of roads. All of us agree that the tax structure we have now is inadequate.

    So let’s name the real disagreement. As I have oft-repeated, I think the gasoline tax is increasingly outmoded and should not be raised but rather replaced with some other taxation system–preferably a mileage tax of some kind (although if we all went to hydrogen, it could just be replaced by a hydrogen tax, no? wishful thinking). But I’m really uncertain about where tODD and sg stand on this question, in the midst of all the pointless bickering over mathematical formulae and greenhouse gases.

  • Cincinnatus

    tODD@87 and DonS@85: Studded tires are illegal in most states with harsh winters, I believe, including Wisconsin and other upper Midwestern states–you know, the places where they would be most useful. But yes, they do tremendous damage.

  • Cincinnatus

    tODD@87 and DonS@85: Studded tires are illegal in most states with harsh winters, I believe, including Wisconsin and other upper Midwestern states–you know, the places where they would be most useful. But yes, they do tremendous damage.

  • DonS

    Thanks, tODD & Cincinnatus. I didn’t always live in Southern CA, tODD :-) Actually, I went to school in western upstate New York, an hour outside of Buffalo, which features a pretty robust winter, and grew up in eastern Pennsylvania, which also has winter. The reason for my question about studded tires is that I recall they were outlawed in New York way back in the late 70′s, while I was in school there, because of the damage they did to the roads. I didn’t realize they were still in use in some states.

  • DonS

    Thanks, tODD & Cincinnatus. I didn’t always live in Southern CA, tODD :-) Actually, I went to school in western upstate New York, an hour outside of Buffalo, which features a pretty robust winter, and grew up in eastern Pennsylvania, which also has winter. The reason for my question about studded tires is that I recall they were outlawed in New York way back in the late 70′s, while I was in school there, because of the damage they did to the roads. I didn’t realize they were still in use in some states.

  • Cincinnatus

    Just checked: I was wrong. Apparently more states than I thought permit studded tires, which seems to be a stupid decision on their part. They are only legal for part of the year, however–usually Oct. 15 – May 1 or thereabouts.

    I’ve personally never used them and never knew anyone who did. They seem to be a bit of a holdover from a past generation before AWD, traction control, and all-weather tires.

  • Cincinnatus

    Just checked: I was wrong. Apparently more states than I thought permit studded tires, which seems to be a stupid decision on their part. They are only legal for part of the year, however–usually Oct. 15 – May 1 or thereabouts.

    I’ve personally never used them and never knew anyone who did. They seem to be a bit of a holdover from a past generation before AWD, traction control, and all-weather tires.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Cincinnatus (@86), I feel I’ve been pretty clear that I don’t share your wide-eyed optimism that the percentage of passenger-vehicle fuel sources from gasoline is going to significantly decrease in the foreseeable future (defined as 25 years). Obviously, we disagree about that.

    If you are correct, and our nation’s cars start running on significantly less than 99% (I speculate; 95%?) gas, then yes, we’ll need a new way to tax based on road use. If, however, the only result is that gas consumption declines (while remaining the same percentage of overall vehicle fuel), then adjusting the gas tax is by far the easiest solution.

    Moreover, on the assumption that vehicle use (fueling, mileage, whatever) should only be taxed for the funding of road maintenance (an assumption I don’t share, but hey), I’m willing to posit that taxes on cargo trucks almost certainly are too low right now, amounting to an effective subsidy on that method of moving goods around.

    Of course, I’m quite certain that the moment anyone suggests taxing heavy trucks in keeping with the amount of damage they do to highways (paid for by you and me, not really by those who do the damage), there will be complaints about social engineering and hardships for those who live in communities far from cargo rail access and so on. These comments will likely ignore the effective subsidies that enabled these now-troubled communities to grow as they did.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Cincinnatus (@86), I feel I’ve been pretty clear that I don’t share your wide-eyed optimism that the percentage of passenger-vehicle fuel sources from gasoline is going to significantly decrease in the foreseeable future (defined as 25 years). Obviously, we disagree about that.

    If you are correct, and our nation’s cars start running on significantly less than 99% (I speculate; 95%?) gas, then yes, we’ll need a new way to tax based on road use. If, however, the only result is that gas consumption declines (while remaining the same percentage of overall vehicle fuel), then adjusting the gas tax is by far the easiest solution.

    Moreover, on the assumption that vehicle use (fueling, mileage, whatever) should only be taxed for the funding of road maintenance (an assumption I don’t share, but hey), I’m willing to posit that taxes on cargo trucks almost certainly are too low right now, amounting to an effective subsidy on that method of moving goods around.

    Of course, I’m quite certain that the moment anyone suggests taxing heavy trucks in keeping with the amount of damage they do to highways (paid for by you and me, not really by those who do the damage), there will be complaints about social engineering and hardships for those who live in communities far from cargo rail access and so on. These comments will likely ignore the effective subsidies that enabled these now-troubled communities to grow as they did.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    DonS (@90), can’t speak to the late 70s, but studded tires are legal in New York from October 16 through April 30. They are not actually for use on snow, but on ice.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    DonS (@90), can’t speak to the late 70s, but studded tires are legal in New York from October 16 through April 30. They are not actually for use on snow, but on ice.

  • DonS

    Hmm, that’s odd. Some sites say certain types of studded tires are legal in some parts of New York during part of the year, as you indicate @ 93, tODD, and other sites, like this one: http://www.motorists.org/chapters/new-york say they are prohibited.

    I distinctly recall studded tires being outlawed while I was there in New York. But, my memory may be faulty, or perhaps it is possible that old styles were outlawed, and then new ones were later developed and permitted. I know more about studded tires now than I did a few minutes ago, so I guess that’s a good thing.

  • DonS

    Hmm, that’s odd. Some sites say certain types of studded tires are legal in some parts of New York during part of the year, as you indicate @ 93, tODD, and other sites, like this one: http://www.motorists.org/chapters/new-york say they are prohibited.

    I distinctly recall studded tires being outlawed while I was there in New York. But, my memory may be faulty, or perhaps it is possible that old styles were outlawed, and then new ones were later developed and permitted. I know more about studded tires now than I did a few minutes ago, so I guess that’s a good thing.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    The New York state government Web sites are surprisingly void of easy-to-find information on this, Don, but I did find this page, which (partially) confirms my earlier statement (@93). And now we are all far more knowledgeable about New York laws on studded tires.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    The New York state government Web sites are surprisingly void of easy-to-find information on this, Don, but I did find this page, which (partially) confirms my earlier statement (@93). And now we are all far more knowledgeable about New York laws on studded tires.

  • Booklover

    Here in Montana, studded tires are legal for the winter months; that would be October through May. “Snowpacked and icy” is a common road report here.

    As long as hunting, ranching, and farming are permitted here, studded tires will probably be used.

    Tire chains are also heavily in use over mountain passes.

  • Booklover

    Here in Montana, studded tires are legal for the winter months; that would be October through May. “Snowpacked and icy” is a common road report here.

    As long as hunting, ranching, and farming are permitted here, studded tires will probably be used.

    Tire chains are also heavily in use over mountain passes.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “Larger families need larger vehicles, and government should not be involved in assessing unnecessary costs on families already struggling with the ordinary high cost of living for raising children in this world just to satisfy environmental extremists.”

    Whoo, where to start.

    Uh, large families of all people should be concerned about the future availability of resources. Gas taxes are not unnecessary. They pay for the common goods. Let’s assume those kids will be driving cars in the not too distant future. As for their tax burden, um, it is not the gas tax that is going to be their enemy, rather that the benefits of having a large family are socialized so that the community benefits more from their children’s productivity than they do. See Philip Longman, New America Foundation.
    http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/features/2004/0403.longman.html

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “Larger families need larger vehicles, and government should not be involved in assessing unnecessary costs on families already struggling with the ordinary high cost of living for raising children in this world just to satisfy environmental extremists.”

    Whoo, where to start.

    Uh, large families of all people should be concerned about the future availability of resources. Gas taxes are not unnecessary. They pay for the common goods. Let’s assume those kids will be driving cars in the not too distant future. As for their tax burden, um, it is not the gas tax that is going to be their enemy, rather that the benefits of having a large family are socialized so that the community benefits more from their children’s productivity than they do. See Philip Longman, New America Foundation.
    http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/features/2004/0403.longman.html

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “Lessee….the government decides to use commercial GPS technology (annualized failure rate of 15%) to track everywhere each citizen goes with complicated algorithms.”

    That would be horribly expensive. Why not just use the car’s odometer reading? We all pay annual state registration fees based on car value or county of residence, age of vehicle, etc. Why not just add mileage as one of the factors used to calculate the annual fee? I am not against a mileage tax, but gas taxes can’t be dodged and are proportional to mileage and weight. The few ultra low gas vehicles all fall into the category of light weight to very light weight anyway. It isn’t worth all the readjusting to get a tiny bit more from those folks.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “Lessee….the government decides to use commercial GPS technology (annualized failure rate of 15%) to track everywhere each citizen goes with complicated algorithms.”

    That would be horribly expensive. Why not just use the car’s odometer reading? We all pay annual state registration fees based on car value or county of residence, age of vehicle, etc. Why not just add mileage as one of the factors used to calculate the annual fee? I am not against a mileage tax, but gas taxes can’t be dodged and are proportional to mileage and weight. The few ultra low gas vehicles all fall into the category of light weight to very light weight anyway. It isn’t worth all the readjusting to get a tiny bit more from those folks.

  • DonS

    SG @ 97: Where do you get the idea that I oppose the gas tax, in principle? Yes, I think that it’s probably time for a more modern version, as I’ve explained above, but I’m not opposed to the concept of charging users for services used.

    What I oppose is your idea, expressed @ 26, that gas prices should be artificially elevated through taxation to at least $10 gallon to promote some utopian concept of the “common good”. That’s what you said, and I believe such a wrongheaded big government interventionist policy would disproportionately harm the middle class, larger families, who are, after all, raising our future generation, and those living in more rural areas.

  • DonS

    SG @ 97: Where do you get the idea that I oppose the gas tax, in principle? Yes, I think that it’s probably time for a more modern version, as I’ve explained above, but I’m not opposed to the concept of charging users for services used.

    What I oppose is your idea, expressed @ 26, that gas prices should be artificially elevated through taxation to at least $10 gallon to promote some utopian concept of the “common good”. That’s what you said, and I believe such a wrongheaded big government interventionist policy would disproportionately harm the middle class, larger families, who are, after all, raising our future generation, and those living in more rural areas.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “Of course, I’m quite certain that the moment anyone suggests taxing heavy trucks in keeping with the amount of damage they do to highways (paid for by you and me, not really by those who do the damage), there will be complaints about social engineering and hardships for those who live in communities far from cargo rail access and so on.”

    Taxes don’t have to be uniform. They can vary by county, so that counties with under X population pay different rates. The annual registration fees vary by county. Gas taxes could too. So could mileage taxes.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “Of course, I’m quite certain that the moment anyone suggests taxing heavy trucks in keeping with the amount of damage they do to highways (paid for by you and me, not really by those who do the damage), there will be complaints about social engineering and hardships for those who live in communities far from cargo rail access and so on.”

    Taxes don’t have to be uniform. They can vary by county, so that counties with under X population pay different rates. The annual registration fees vary by county. Gas taxes could too. So could mileage taxes.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “What I oppose is your idea, expressed @ 26, that gas prices should be artificially elevated through taxation to at least $10 gallon to promote some utopian concept of the “common good”. That’s what you said,”

    No, it isn’t. I am saying that the taxes are too low to maintain the roads. Therefore the gas tax should be raised until people are paying the actual cost of what they are using. I am advocating ending the artificially low price that encourages waste and incentivizes development that requires many folks to commute long distances.

    I am using ‘common good’ to refer to any public infrastructure such as roads that are available to the general public.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “What I oppose is your idea, expressed @ 26, that gas prices should be artificially elevated through taxation to at least $10 gallon to promote some utopian concept of the “common good”. That’s what you said,”

    No, it isn’t. I am saying that the taxes are too low to maintain the roads. Therefore the gas tax should be raised until people are paying the actual cost of what they are using. I am advocating ending the artificially low price that encourages waste and incentivizes development that requires many folks to commute long distances.

    I am using ‘common good’ to refer to any public infrastructure such as roads that are available to the general public.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “That’s what you said, and I believe such a wrongheaded big government interventionist policy would disproportionately harm the middle class, larger families, who are, after all, raising our future generation, and those living in more rural areas.”

    Don, I said, numerous times that the taxes could vary by county. It is not “big government”. It is popularly elected state and local government taxing its own folks at the state and local level to pay for the roads they drive on. It is just expecting people to pay for stuff they use rather than looking to Uncle Sam to borrow money and then give it to them to build roads.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “That’s what you said, and I believe such a wrongheaded big government interventionist policy would disproportionately harm the middle class, larger families, who are, after all, raising our future generation, and those living in more rural areas.”

    Don, I said, numerous times that the taxes could vary by county. It is not “big government”. It is popularly elected state and local government taxing its own folks at the state and local level to pay for the roads they drive on. It is just expecting people to pay for stuff they use rather than looking to Uncle Sam to borrow money and then give it to them to build roads.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “To wit, I, along with many DOT analysts, believe that the gas tax is insufficient to fund our current infrastructure and that increasing usage of alternative fuels and propulsion systems will render it increasingly inequitable and useless as a revenue source.”

    How is it inequitable? The proportion of gas used is directly tied to the amount driven and the weight of the vehicle. You pay for what you use and it incentivizes conservation. What is not to love? :-)

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “To wit, I, along with many DOT analysts, believe that the gas tax is insufficient to fund our current infrastructure and that increasing usage of alternative fuels and propulsion systems will render it increasingly inequitable and useless as a revenue source.”

    How is it inequitable? The proportion of gas used is directly tied to the amount driven and the weight of the vehicle. You pay for what you use and it incentivizes conservation. What is not to love? :-)

  • DonS

    SG @ 102:

    I want $10 a gallon gas and $200/barrel oil. It could be better for our economy. It makes imported/transported products more expensive and gives our workers and local industries an advantage. The higher the better through taxes or high oil prices. We need to reduce consumption. Less waste, less pollution.

    Hmm. I’m trying to figure out the basis for your statement @101 “no, it isn’t”. Do you retract your quoted statement above? Because it doesn’t square with your statement now that you only want people to “pay for the stuff they use”. Because in no way do gas taxes in the neighborhood of $6.50 per gallon merely recover costs for what people use. And a larger family having to spend $200 to 300 every time it filled its van or SUV would be made destitute by such a government policy.

  • DonS

    SG @ 102:

    I want $10 a gallon gas and $200/barrel oil. It could be better for our economy. It makes imported/transported products more expensive and gives our workers and local industries an advantage. The higher the better through taxes or high oil prices. We need to reduce consumption. Less waste, less pollution.

    Hmm. I’m trying to figure out the basis for your statement @101 “no, it isn’t”. Do you retract your quoted statement above? Because it doesn’t square with your statement now that you only want people to “pay for the stuff they use”. Because in no way do gas taxes in the neighborhood of $6.50 per gallon merely recover costs for what people use. And a larger family having to spend $200 to 300 every time it filled its van or SUV would be made destitute by such a government policy.

  • Cincinnatus

    But you see, Don, $10/gallon gasoline will magically create abundant domestic jobs with salaries so fabulous that American workers easily afford $300 fill-ups–not to mention $10/gallon milk and other uber-expensive goods whose price is largely dependent upon fuel costs.

  • Cincinnatus

    But you see, Don, $10/gallon gasoline will magically create abundant domestic jobs with salaries so fabulous that American workers easily afford $300 fill-ups–not to mention $10/gallon milk and other uber-expensive goods whose price is largely dependent upon fuel costs.

  • DonS

    Yes indeed, Cincinnatus. I’m sure that wise tax policy will be a real economic boon, just as most government policy turns out to be.

    Lest one think that the gas tax is simple, straightforward, easy to administer, and hard to manipulate to promote political objectives, I will remind them that certain fuel, used by favored off-roaders, such as farmers, is untaxed. This fuel is dyed red, and a host of government investigators apparently go around peering in folks’ gas tanks to ensure that they aren’t illegally using the untaxed, dyed fuel http://www.worldsweeper.com/Legal/DyedFuelFine.html

    Social engineering using tax and regulatory policy is always a disaster, leading to complexity, unintended consequences, favoritism and political corruption, high compliance expenses on the parts of both the government and private citizens, and less liberty for all.

    Don’t be tempted to go down this ill-advised route.

  • DonS

    Yes indeed, Cincinnatus. I’m sure that wise tax policy will be a real economic boon, just as most government policy turns out to be.

    Lest one think that the gas tax is simple, straightforward, easy to administer, and hard to manipulate to promote political objectives, I will remind them that certain fuel, used by favored off-roaders, such as farmers, is untaxed. This fuel is dyed red, and a host of government investigators apparently go around peering in folks’ gas tanks to ensure that they aren’t illegally using the untaxed, dyed fuel http://www.worldsweeper.com/Legal/DyedFuelFine.html

    Social engineering using tax and regulatory policy is always a disaster, leading to complexity, unintended consequences, favoritism and political corruption, high compliance expenses on the parts of both the government and private citizens, and less liberty for all.

    Don’t be tempted to go down this ill-advised route.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “Social engineering using tax and regulatory policy is always a disaster, leading to complexity, unintended consequences, favoritism and political corruption, high compliance expenses on the parts of both the government and private citizens, and less liberty for all.”

    We have all of those things now because gas taxes are too low to maintain roads. Some may prefer the live now, pay later plan, but I don’t. I don’t agree that building roads with borrowed money is better. It is entirely possible to wear out a road before it is paid for.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “Social engineering using tax and regulatory policy is always a disaster, leading to complexity, unintended consequences, favoritism and political corruption, high compliance expenses on the parts of both the government and private citizens, and less liberty for all.”

    We have all of those things now because gas taxes are too low to maintain roads. Some may prefer the live now, pay later plan, but I don’t. I don’t agree that building roads with borrowed money is better. It is entirely possible to wear out a road before it is paid for.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “But you see, Don, $10/gallon gasoline will magically create abundant domestic jobs with salaries so fabulous that American workers easily afford $300 fill-ups”

    It’s true. The cost will negatively affect some who work for very low wages. In fact it could drive many out of our labor market. But hey gas is cheaper in Mexico, $2.93 in April 2011. Maybe they will move there because “inexpensive transportation is necessary to a vibrant economy.”

    Mexico $2.93

    Germany $8.60

    Which has the more vibrant economy?

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “But you see, Don, $10/gallon gasoline will magically create abundant domestic jobs with salaries so fabulous that American workers easily afford $300 fill-ups”

    It’s true. The cost will negatively affect some who work for very low wages. In fact it could drive many out of our labor market. But hey gas is cheaper in Mexico, $2.93 in April 2011. Maybe they will move there because “inexpensive transportation is necessary to a vibrant economy.”

    Mexico $2.93

    Germany $8.60

    Which has the more vibrant economy?

  • Cincinnatus

    sg: Did you suddenly forget that correlation most certainly does not equal causation?

    I’m willing to bet that fuel for personal transportation doesn’t eat up 9% of the average household budget in Germany, as it does here already, either.

  • Cincinnatus

    sg: Did you suddenly forget that correlation most certainly does not equal causation?

    I’m willing to bet that fuel for personal transportation doesn’t eat up 9% of the average household budget in Germany, as it does here already, either.

  • Cincinnatus

    Also, Germany’s economy is stagnant when compared with that of the United States.

  • Cincinnatus

    Also, Germany’s economy is stagnant when compared with that of the United States.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “Did you suddenly forget that correlation most certainly does not equal causation?”

    No. But perhaps Don did.

    “Also, Germany’s economy is stagnant when compared with that of the United States.”

    I don’t think that is correct. Check that again.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “Did you suddenly forget that correlation most certainly does not equal causation?”

    No. But perhaps Don did.

    “Also, Germany’s economy is stagnant when compared with that of the United States.”

    I don’t think that is correct. Check that again.

  • DonS

    SG @ 107:

    We have all of those things now because gas taxes are too low to maintain roads. Some may prefer the live now, pay later plan, but I don’t. I don’t agree that building roads with borrowed money is better. It is entirely possible to wear out a road before it is paid for.

    Well, you ignored my invitation to retract your statement @ 26 proposing that $10 per gallon gas is a public good. This must mean that, in your view, $10 per gallon gasoline is required in order to “maintain roads”. Care to provide a shred of data to support that fairly radical proposal?

  • DonS

    SG @ 107:

    We have all of those things now because gas taxes are too low to maintain roads. Some may prefer the live now, pay later plan, but I don’t. I don’t agree that building roads with borrowed money is better. It is entirely possible to wear out a road before it is paid for.

    Well, you ignored my invitation to retract your statement @ 26 proposing that $10 per gallon gas is a public good. This must mean that, in your view, $10 per gallon gasoline is required in order to “maintain roads”. Care to provide a shred of data to support that fairly radical proposal?

  • Louis

    Cincinnatus @ 100: I posted way-up at #36 about Germany’s economy: It is growing, their deficit is much less, and they have just had all-time record import – export numbers. Ther exports are the second highest in the world, surpassing the US, and Japan, both nations with much higher populations. And they had to absorb a large swath of economically backward people and industries back in 1990.

    So no, their economy is not stagnant by any stretch of the imagination.

  • Louis

    Cincinnatus @ 100: I posted way-up at #36 about Germany’s economy: It is growing, their deficit is much less, and they have just had all-time record import – export numbers. Ther exports are the second highest in the world, surpassing the US, and Japan, both nations with much higher populations. And they had to absorb a large swath of economically backward people and industries back in 1990.

    So no, their economy is not stagnant by any stretch of the imagination.

  • Louis

    Sorry, that should be Cincinnatus at 110.

  • Louis

    Sorry, that should be Cincinnatus at 110.

  • Cincinnatus

    Louis@113: I meant that Germany’s economy is growing more slowly than that of the United States–but at the moment, that apparently isn’t true anyway, by a slim margin, according to the CIA World Factbook! In any case, that wasn’t my point. My point was to note the spurious causal connection sg was attempting to draw between very high gas taxes and a flourishing economy. The two variables don’t compute in that way, particularly if her next logical leap would be to claim that we should raise gas taxes to boost our economic growth.

    But by other measures–unemployment, taxation levels, GDP growth rate, deficits, etc.–most European economies, Germany included until very recently, were stagnant when compared with the United States. Our “new normal” of 7-8% unemployment has always been the perfectly accepted normal in Western Europe.

    But as I said, ultimately beside the point.

  • Cincinnatus

    Louis@113: I meant that Germany’s economy is growing more slowly than that of the United States–but at the moment, that apparently isn’t true anyway, by a slim margin, according to the CIA World Factbook! In any case, that wasn’t my point. My point was to note the spurious causal connection sg was attempting to draw between very high gas taxes and a flourishing economy. The two variables don’t compute in that way, particularly if her next logical leap would be to claim that we should raise gas taxes to boost our economic growth.

    But by other measures–unemployment, taxation levels, GDP growth rate, deficits, etc.–most European economies, Germany included until very recently, were stagnant when compared with the United States. Our “new normal” of 7-8% unemployment has always been the perfectly accepted normal in Western Europe.

    But as I said, ultimately beside the point.

  • kerner

    Maybe somebody noticed this already, but don’t we already have a tax on mleage? The federal gasoline tax effetively does tax vehicles based on how much they are driven. If the Obama administration wants to tax Americans more based on how much they drive, can’t we just increase the gasoline tax? Who needs new tchnowlogy?

  • kerner

    Maybe somebody noticed this already, but don’t we already have a tax on mleage? The federal gasoline tax effetively does tax vehicles based on how much they are driven. If the Obama administration wants to tax Americans more based on how much they drive, can’t we just increase the gasoline tax? Who needs new tchnowlogy?

  • kerner

    I mean technology. sheesh.

  • kerner

    I mean technology. sheesh.

  • DonS

    Kerner @ 116 — you may want to read the comments :-)

  • DonS

    Kerner @ 116 — you may want to read the comments :-)


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