Thursday, April 27, 2006

Don't Lower Gas Tax, Raise It!

The average price of gas in metro Rochester topped $3 today. We're not alone. It seems to be on everyone's mind across the country and is the top story on all the network news channels. It's enough to make you think we're in crisis mode. But when you put aside all the hoopla, all the prognostications about peak oil supply, all the criticisms of big oil company profits, all the bitching, moaning, whining, and carrying-on, it's still life as usual for most Americans.

For all their complaining, Americans don't seem to be terribly affected by the rising gas prices. Have we seen dramatic shifts to public transportation? Are droves of suburbanites riding their bikes to work? Are there any less Hummers on the roads today? Absolutely not. People are complaining about gas prices because they're selfish; because they don't want to even consider that they might have to change their way of life. So why should we reward people for their obstinate attitudes by lowering the gas tax, and in the process harming all levels of government, just so John Q. Jackass can save a nickel a gallon at the pump? The answer my friends, is that we should not.

But politicians will do anything to win votes. Especially Republicans. As is the case here in New York State, where Republican Assemblymen such as Jim Tedisco and Dan Burling are proposing that the State cap its share of the gas tax. New York State currently receives 11-cents on every gallon of gas. Capping the price at which state gas tax is charged at $2.00 will save consumers at most 8 or 9 cents a gallon. That will be pretty nice for the mindless masses that choose to drive SUVs, but for those of us who drive more sensible vehicles, we'll barely notice the savings. However, as residents of New York State, we'd be missing out on a great opportunity for using the increased funds brought in by that gas tax.

If anything, the gas tax should increase along with the cost of oil. Let's face it, these high prices are here to stay. Sure they may drop below $3 again next winter, but we'll never see prices drop below $2 ever again. At least not until demand is cut in half by creating realistic alternative fuel options, changing lifestyle habits such as living closer to work or using alternate modes of transportation, or destroying all Middle Eastern governments and taking control of their oil fields. Although Bush would probably lean towards the third option, methinks that would be the hardest to accomplish.

Either we look ahead and embrace the future or we allow our nation to weaken by living in the past. Let's increase the gas tax to fund intensive research into alternative fuels, to improve and expand public transportation, and to run public education campaigns on how to cut back on fuel usage. The time is now for America to wake up from its sprawling suburban dream. New York State can be at the leading edge of the new movement towards an oil-free future. Please Albany, don't listen to the cowards who are so afraid of change that they're more willing to send their children to fight in the desert than adjust their way of life. This is capitalism at its finest after all.