In the U.S., motorists do not pay their way. The US government spends more on highways and other auto-related expenses than it receives from auto-related taxes, unlike almost every country in Europe. In a recent report [pdf], Mark Delucchi calculates automobile-related costs and revenues in three different ways and concludes the subsidy is around 20-70 cents per gallon or $24-105 billion in 2002. But what are automobile-related costs, you ask? [more inside]
The First Law of Petropolitics, in short, argues that the price of oil and the pace of freedom operate in an inverse correlation. As the price of oil goes up in what I call petroauthoritarian states—like Iran, Sudan, Venezuela—the pace of freedom goes down. These regimes can afford to be less responsive to their people and outside pressure. And as the price of oil goes down, the pace of freedom goes up because these regimes have to open up to the world if they want to deliver for their people, and they have to empower their people more.But how to lower oil prices and help freedom on its proverbial march? Many, from Alan Greenspan to Andrew Sullivan to Ray Magliozzi from Car Talk think the answer may be to . . . raise the gas tax? The Pigou Club is an ever-updated list of economists, politicians and others who have advocated Pigouvian (or is it Pigovian?) taxes to not only lower oil prices, but reduce greenhouse gases, fix the federal deficit and strengthen our national security. Though some remain more than a little hesitant to jump on the bandwagon and others remain skeptical that the movement is anything more than "just talk," this could be an idea whose time has come, especially since the gas tax isn't as regressive one would think.