JD: DEFINITELY not a Greenneck
Predictably, Guvnor Douglas is onboard the gas-price gouging train and is ringing the bell to beat the band. Predictably, he’s decrying high prices, and calling on the feds to bring to bear their mighty powers and reign in the free market. Predictably, he’s been almost silent on the subject of conservation. Predictably, he hasn’t got a goddamn clue.
Today, the EIA released its weekly gasoline inventories report. The result? We have record low inventories for this time of year (in the parlance of the report, “well below the lower end of the average range”), facing off against record high demand. Hey, Guv: There’s this thing. It’s called “supply and demand.” Ever heard of it?
It’s tough to defend oil company profits, particularly to the average or below-average income Vermonter that’s struggling to put food on the table in the face of $3 gas. But it’s important to remember that it is well within our power to lower gas prices. It’s also important to remember that lower gas prices are the last thing we need.
What we need is sensible energy policy that uses financial incentives to encourage conservation. What we need is a state gas tax (at least an additional $1/gallon; $2 would be better) that’s offset by an income tax rebate based on a predetermined cap on gasoline use.
How would it work? Let’s say the average Vermonter drives 12,000 miles per year. Let’s say that the average fuel efficiency of the average Vermonter’s rig is a pathetic 22mpg. That means they’re burning 545 gallons of petrol annually. That means they’d get a tax credit of $1090 to offset the gas tax. If they use less, that’s $ in their pocket. If they use more… well, that’s a pretty strong incentive to use less, no?
Exemptions would be made for those whose job truly requires the use of heavy, fuel-inefficient equipment. Exemptions would NOT be made to the soccer mom who NEEDS her SUV because a Honda Civic is just so…so… inconvenient.
Here’s the thing: One way or another, we’re gonna see higher gas prices. We can do it in a way that makes sense, minimizes the pain, and prepares us for a transition to a post-carbon economy. Or we can do it in the kicking, screaming, dragged-by-the-frayed cuffs-of-our-Carhartts manner that our current political elite seem to prefer.