Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Gas Pains

The Moose offers some contrarian thoughts about high gas prices.

Is there anything good about high gasoline prices? Needless to say , the Moose has sympathy for the working stiff who must take a second mortgage to pay for a gallon of gas. And no one likes Oil CEO's who get compensation packages bigger than the GDP of some nations.But, contrary to the all of the politicians' demagoguery, we have met the enemy and he is us .

The Moose is no economist, but surely consumers (along with rising demand in China and India) are partly responsible for the soaring cost of gas because of our insatiable appetite for more oil. High demand fetches high prices.That was the Moose's thought as he attempted to negotiate a shopping mall parking lot in his '88 Toyota Corolla this past weekend. The Moose felt lost amidst a sea of SUV's and Maxi-Vans the size of M1 Abrams tanks. To paraphrase Bill Maher, when you drive a vehicle the size of a 18 Wheeler, you drive with Bin Laden.

Everyone talks about energy independence, but who does anything about it? Even those Hollywood lefties who kvetch about oil dependency and global warming will be the last ones to give up their private jets.The Moose is no oil dependance fanatic, but perhaps a gas price attack is not bad for the nation. Just maybe, we'll change our behavior. It is truly outrageous that we are at the mercy of the likes of Sheiks, Mullahs and Hugo Chavez's for our energy.

Of course, individuals cannot solve this problem. It is a colossal failure of the Bush Administration and the entire leadership class that they did not launch a massive energy independence program in the aftermath of 9/11.Irwin Stelzer offers some novel suggestions to address the energy issue in the current issue of the Weekly Standard.

To curb demand for oil, he recommends an oil tax,

"That reliance--addiction, if you prefer--forces us to send billions of dollars to regimes that finance terrorists or, at minimum, do not wish us well. The cost of that addiction should be borne by the addicts, Americans who drive their cars and heat their homes with a fuel that is dangerous to the nation's health. So conservatives concerned with national security, with the "warping" of our diplomacy, with the ability of our economy to continue growing, and with the need to develop market-oriented environmental policies, should be clamoring for a tax on oil use. That would be fairer than taxing gasoline alone: It shares the burden between regions of the country that use oil for heating (the Northeast), and regions in which drivers cover long distances to get to work and the supermarket (the West)."

Stelzer suggests off-setting the economic burden of such a tax on middle and lower income Americans by cutting payroll taxes,

"Such a tax on oil use would, of course, generate huge revenues, not a good thing from the point of view of anyone already appalled by the president's LBJ-like expansion of government. No problem: Those revenues can be offset by reductions in the regressive, job-destroying payroll tax now levied on salaries. "Tax dangerous oil consumption, not wealth-creating jobs" is a slogan that just might have some popular appeal."

Unfortunately, it is unlikely that our current crop of tepid politicians would boldly raise oil taxes while slashing the payroll tax. Instead, they will rant and rave against the oil barons. That may be satisfying but it will neither reduce the demand for gas nor make us less dependent on those mullahs, sheiks and Chavez types who wish to do us harm.

And by the way, how about driving a vehicle that is a tad bit smaller than a tractor -trailer!
-- Posted at 8:26 AM | Link to this post | Email this post