Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Friedman Finds a Pony!

Whatever the merits of a gas tax, if I were running for Congress I would get down on my knees and pray every night that my opponent proposed or voted to add a buck fifty to the price of a gallon of gas.

My gut told me this was the case, but it's great to see it confirmed by the latest New York Times/CBS News poll: Americans not only know that our oil addiction is really bad for us, but they would be willing to accept a gasoline tax if some leader would just frame the stakes for the country the right way.

I am sure one reason President Bush suddenly chose to build his State of the Union address around ending our oil addiction and moving toward a renewable-energy future was because his private polling told him the same thing. But Mr. Bush simply occupied this ground rhetorically — before Democrats could get there — without actually offering a real solution.

The only real solution is raising our gasoline tax, which is a paltry 18.4 cents a gallon and has not been increased since 1993. Only by bringing the total price of gasoline into the $3.50-to-$4-per-gallon range — and keeping it there — will large numbers of Americans demand plug-in hybrid cars that run on biofuels like ethanol. When large numbers of Americans do that, U.S. automakers will move quickly down the innovation curve.

No matter how "some leader" frames the gas tax issue, that leader's opponent will frame his way right out of office. It'd be much more politically possible to raise CAFE standards, subsidize high MPG cars, tax manufacturers for low MPG cars or at least remove the subsidies, etc...