I recently joined the Facebook group: 1 Million Americans for a $1/1 Gallon Gas Tax ... Save The World, NOW!
And immediately earned the scorn of a couple of friends.
This blog posting is about two problems:
1.: We're hooked on fossil fuel.
2.: Americans are hung-up with partisan idiocy, so much so that simple, good ideas get a bad rap.
Where we are: Americans as a nation are addicted to fossil fuels. Disclaimer: I'm addicted just as badly as everyone else (Man I love horsepower!)
But I'd have to be an idiot not to see that whomever controls the oil-supply has this nation by the balls.
So I did what I thought was a good thing -- I joined a group on Facebook that deals directly with the issue in a good way -- add a dollar tax to gas that will be used to stimulate the business of alternative fuel. Why would I, a rabid capitalist, do something like this?
Because I think this is exactly the kind of function that I think a government should be executing. They shouldn't be running around bailing out auto makers and bankers, essentially socializing our country and rewarding bad behavior -- they should be working on matters of national security in the best way possible. When it comes to fossil fuel, it's come down to an obvious matter of national security. Adding a buck to the cost of a gallon of gas in this context is the opposite of a bail-out -- it's about penalizing energy consumption of fossil fuels to make way for something safer, and in our national interest. What remains to be discussed (other than the idea of the input of the funds) is how long this tax should be in place, and who would get the cash. More on that later.
I've been for this idea for years -- I've said it many times. It's not a popular idea -- no one wants to pay more for gas -- it's going to be somewhat painful. But if you think about it, the alternative to the situation is one where someday down the road we have our productivity grind to a halt because lots of people want cheap gas in the short term.
Do I have any partisan motivations for this behavior? Let's make this official: I'm not a democrat or a republican. I find partisan politics where two sides line up and yell at each other like they're right and everyone else is wrong, stupid and distasteful. I think it's exactly this kind of stupidity that has brought our nation to the brink of disaster over the past few years. It has kept us focused upon fighting two sides of a losing struggle when we, as a collective unit, could have been solving some real problems.
I urge people that think of things like gasoline running out as a liberal or conservative issue to step away from the partisan bong for a couple of minutes, let the smoke clear, and think about what kind of situation their son or daughter is going to be in come the near future. In this near future they're very likely going to be attempting to find gas for their car to get to work -- and it will simply be gone or so ridiculously expensive that they cannot afford it.
Now, some people might want to say "Market Correction" here, and just expect things to work themselves out -- new fuels will emerge at that time, in other words, or possibly there will be an abundance of cheap electric vehicles or hydrogen available. But far more likely, if we don't do some preventative and strategic work to get in the right place, energy-consumption-wise, there will be a huge problem where lots of people are stranded, can't get to work and the economy (worse than now) will land further in the crapper than anyone can imagine.
That's not a fear -- it's a reality with a very highly potential. It's not too late right now to do something smart -- something like raise the tax on gas and stimulate alternative forms of energy distribution as it pertains to automotive transportation.
So, back to the situation where you or your kids can't get to work -- the present excuse "Hey, it was a lot of fun yelling "Liberal", "Tree-Hugger", "Stop helping Big Corporations" and "Redistribute the Wealth" back then -- that excuse isn't likely going to mean a lot to your wife or your kids at the future date and time.
Is the excuse of today going to work, 5, 10, 20 years from now, in other words -- the excuse: "Hey, don't worry about your life coming essentially to a grinding halt -- I did it for the fun of yelling the party line!".
They're going to look at you like an idiot -- because you were listening to people like Michael Moore, Rush Limbaugh, Al Franken and Anne Coulter, rather than using your brain to solve problems -- like how the heck are we going to get 'un-addicted' to fossil fuel?
I've had the idea long before this stupid Facebook group (which is worth joining in my not so humble opinion) that we should raise the tax on gas and get with the alternative energy program. Hydrogen, electric cars, solar cars, bio-diesel -- all of these things are potential realities. None of them are going to be cheap when it comes to switching over.
It'd be nice to imagine that these alternative business models are simply going to get traction and come into existence due to the usual market forces. The fact is that in a solution-centric way, oil has a virtual monopoly. It makes it too hard for something competitive to emerge to replace it, in other words. Sure, you are free to chose -- you can always chose not to use gas -- if you rule out the fact that you already own a gasoline consuming car, that most of the fueling stations sell gas, that most of the mechanics know how to work on gasoline-powered vehicles and so on.
I'm simply skeptical given the scale of say, adding a few hundred thousand fueling stations, for starters, that the usual speed of market response will be there when we need it.
Is taxing gas and creating new potentials such as this "re-distributing the wealth" as one person suggests? Not in my opinion -- the item being used, gasoline, is part of the scale of the problem. If we tax the rich people that made huge bucks on the last oil speculation run, and then in turn created these new alternative fuel interests (effectively giving that money to someone else) -- then, yes, I'd agree with the "re-distribution" description of the situation.
But even more to the point -- "Joe the Plumber" is more of a fictional idea around something stupid people want to believe in, than he is real. I know he's a real person -- but the fact is that all of the yelling about what Joe believes is pointless if we run out of oil. The oil isn't going to be on the side of the democrats or republicans -- it's simply a complex chain of polymers, after all, and will have no partisan feelings about being or not being in the conversation.
This is the bottom line -- Being energy secure as a nation is a good idea.
The money for making new business of this magnitude is hard to find -- but we have just been through a huge run-up where people were paying 4 bucks a gallon for fuel. Now it's dropping toward a dollar a gallon and I hear SUV sales are on the rise. Great -- just what the doctor ordered -- more people thinking about the next 10 minutes of joy ride instead of the next 20 years of potential insecurity.
This, in my humble opinion, is exactly why things like government exist -- it's what I'd expect them to do in our national security interest -- find some way to make a dis-incentive for the masses to make the place just a little less dependent (that's sarcasm) on the whims of the folks that control the oil supply (that's mostly people outside of our country these days, in case you've been in a coma for the past 10 or so years).
I urge people to stop looking at everything with stupid, partisan glasses. Resist the urge to say "no way!" because it's a tax, for example. I'm not for a permanent tax here, by the way -- just until a certain level of security is reached. Also, the cash should be carefully controlled by non-partisan interests (read: some kind of democratic, scientific and objective controls for passing out the cash -- not some pork-barrel reward or dole). So, how to determine this threshold? Say when we're 80% dependent upon energy generated inside of the borders of this country. At that point the tax would be repealed.
Back to the partisan end of things -- for example, this idea would potentially create new industry and that's
also good for our present situation -- as a rabid capitalist, I think this is
a great idea -- more competition in the energy market.
That slant on this issue, by me, however, could be cast in a partisan light --
so you don't hear me focus upon it as a reason. Rather, the dire needs of
our present energy situation put this in an entirely different light -- one that has
to do with our security over the long haul.