This is a Good Idea?

Update: Obama Says ‘No Way’

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama on Friday rejected his transportation secretary’s suggestion that the administration consider taxing motorists based on how many miles they drive instead of how much gasoline they buy.

“It is not and will not be the policy of the Obama administration,” White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters, when asked for the president’s thoughts about Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood’s suggestion, raised in an interview with The Associated Press a daily earlier.


Regular readers know that I would be strongly in favor of increasing gasoline taxes in exchange for income tax credits. I think such an idea would be politically palatable, provided it is clearly communicated to everyone that 1). If they make efforts to conserve, this system would be better for them financially; and 2). Higher gasoline prices will push us in the direction of less energy dependence by encouraging conservation and alternatives. Those who love the idea of energy independence and hate the idea of sending our dollars to OPEC should love the idea of changing our tax system in this way.

But some have a different idea of changing the way we are taxed:

Transportation Secretary LaHood eyes taxing miles driven

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says he wants to consider taxing motorists based on how many miles they drive rather than how much gasoline they burn – an idea that has angered drivers in some states where it has been proposed.

A tentative plan in Massachusetts to use GPS chips in vehicles to charge motorists by the mile has drawn complaints from drivers who say it’s an Orwellian intrusion by government into the lives of citizens. Other motorists say it eliminates an incentive to drive more fuel-efficient cars since gas guzzlers will be taxed at the same rate as fuel sippers.

Yeah, count me among those who would say that. While it doesn’t eliminate the incentive to drive fuel efficient cars – after all, there is still the matter of the gasoline bill itself – it does remove some of the incentive for choosing fuel efficiency. It also decreases the incentive for choosing alternatives to gasoline-powered vehicles. It seems inherently unfair that the person who drives the new Ford Fusion hybrid should pay the same road taxes as the person who drives a Hummer. I want to encourage people to drive the Fusion.

Besides a VMT tax, more tolls for highways and bridges and more government partnerships with business to finance transportation projects are other funding options, LaHood, one of two Republicans in President Barack Obama’s Cabinet, said in the interview Thursday.

“What I see this administration doing is this – thinking outside the box on how we fund our infrastructure in America,” he said.

I am all for outside the box thinking. But let’s be clear: There is a reason ideas are outside the box, and sometimes it’s because they are just really bad ideas.

LaHood said he firmly opposes raising the federal gasoline tax in the current recession.

Think for a second about what he is saying. He opposes raising the gasoline tax. Why? Well I presume he would say that he doesn’t want to increase people’s tax burden. OK, then why do you propose to change taxes on the basis of miles driven? Is it to raise less money? The same amount of money? No, you are trying to raise more money, because there have been shortfalls as people have reduced their consumption:

Among the reasons for the gap is a switch to more fuel-efficient cars and a decrease in driving that many transportation experts believe is related to the economic downturn. Electric cars and alternative-fuel vehicles that don’t use gasoline are expected to start penetrating the market in greater numbers.

Further, you are going to increase the costs of vehicles by requiring the GPS chips be installed. But I guess it could make it much easier to give speeding tickets. Imagine with a GPS system in your car just how easily it would be to catch speeders. Surely we can all embrace a system that could be utilized to send you a speeding ticket any time you drive 2 miles an hour over the speed limit.

Am I off base here? Someone convince me that this is a good idea. I think people are going to be much more resistant to this than what I have proposed.

34 thoughts on “This is a Good Idea?”

  1. GPS on cars to curb car mileage?
    What a ridiculous idea! Why don’t they just stick the GPS under our skin and beat crime as well?
    Politicians should rather start giving some positive incentives for energy efficiency and not come waiving at us with weird, indeed Orwellian, sticks and carrots!
    Our entire system is still built on the buy,buy,buy mantra so its pretty much still paying-up big time for inefficiency.

  2. If the purpose of the tax is to pay to maintain the roads, it should be based on the amount of wear the vehicle puts on the roads. Mileage plus weight seems fair.

  3. Who are we kidding. The country is broke and is plunging deeper into debt at twice the speed of light. There will be a gas tax increase and a vehicle mile tax and a value added tax, and … :

    If you drive a car, I’ll tax the street
    If you try to sit, I’ll tax your seat
    If you get too cold I’ll tax the heat
    If you take a walk, I’ll tax your feet

    Taxman (The Beatles)

  4. You are correct, this is an unbelievably bad idea.

    Like it or not, a car has become required for living in the US, and as such, this level of government control is inexcusable.

    This idea that the money for roads needs to come directly from use of roads is for the average person ridiculous. Even the person who walks to the local farmer’s market for food benefits from the road system, unless the farmer teleported their produce there.

    The road system should be liberated from the (inconsistent) life support system of gas taxes. Instead, gas taxes should be used to encourage macroeconomic goals such as reducing the economies dependence on gasoline.

  5. I think you may be missing the point here. We often consider the cost/benefit and secondary effects of changing what we drive or how we drive, but it seems that what we drive on is often ignored. To me, this seems like a dangerous thing to ignore. While Transportation Secretary LaHood might not have found the best solution, it is an attempt to address a systemic issue that, thus far, has not received any serious attention at all. Yes, a gas tax would help shift us away from over-consumption of gasoline. But it wouldn’t help us if we achieve what many here would see as an ideal: no gasoline being consumed due to a fully electric transportation infrastructure!

    So, here’s my question to you:
    Let’s imagine, for a moment, that in twenty years time every single American is driving a fully electric vehicle. Gasoline is a thing of the past. You are appointed Transportation Secretary on the back of your long time blogging (blogging being a much more respected pass-time in twenty years 😉 ). How are you going to fund maintenance and construction activities in a way that is fair AND that generates sufficient funds?

  6. I was going to comment here to agree with what you said, Robert, but then I saw phil’s response. And I think he has a point.

    I think we’re looking at the situation by asking the question “how can we get people to switch to more fuel-efficient vehicles?”. LaHood’s concerned with “how do we pay for our transportation infrastructure.” The two goals are, in a sense, opposed to each other.

    I think raising the gas tax is a good way to get people to consider better fuel efficiency. But if everyone is driving a PHEV, then the money brought in through that tax may not be sufficient to ensure that the roads can be maintained. And road maintenance is going to be an issue whether we’re dealing with traditional ICE, PHEV, or Flintstones-style foot-power.

    Unfortunately, a “miles driven” tax isn’t going to encourage people towards greater fuel efficiency, but it it shouldn’t discourage them, either, provided the gas tax isn’t lowered.

    I’m not sure declaring that higher gas taxes are off the table is a good idea, though. Ideally, I’d like to see a moderate increase in gas taxation coupled with a gradual phase-in of a miles driven tax. The trick would be to balance it so that the tax burden doesn’t become too unbearable for drivers.

  7. How are you going to fund maintenance and construction activities in a way that is fair AND that generates sufficient funds?
    Thanks for the question, Mr. SmartyPants.

    A: You build a series of tollgates with weigh structures that can weigh vehicles while either (1) reading a transporder (as some toll roads do now) or (2)photographing their license plates. Send them a monthly or annual bill based on weight hauled and a fixed rated for each toll gate. Still way cheaper than 500 million GPS systems…

  8. RR,
    You are spot on, but not critical enough of the officitute. Here is a sharp and accurate comment from The Truth About Cars: Meanwhile, the only real argument against raising the tax on gas (for which demand is quite inelastic) is political cowardice. La Hood might consider the VMT scheme “thinking outside the box,” but an enormous infrastructure of GPS chip makers, monitors, maintenance, and assessors (not to mention the possibility of privacy intrusions, a notion La Hood airly dismisses) is hardly a streamlined, efficient approach to the problem. Emphasis added.

    With this sort of political “leadership” we are going nowhere, fast.

  9. Bad idea.

    Besides, it seems to me that a GPS would be rather easy to defeat. When my car is parked in the garage it can’t see the satelites. Just cover or disable the antenna and the GPS doesn’t know whether it is out on the road or in the garage. One could also build a transmitter to feed the GPS false information. Sure, you could verify the data by checking it against the odometer, but why not just come up with a device that plugs into the OBD-II port and read the information directly from the engine computer.

    GPS devices are 1-way communication. To issue traffic violations, you would need something like the Onstar service that uses cell phone service to transmit back. There is all that bandwith that will be available when analog TV leaves the spectrum.

  10. I think that the mileage tax would be wrong as a replacement to the gasoline tax, but should not be rejected out of hand.

    There could be two taxes

    1) A gasoline tax, whose purpose is to tax the bad. It punished both carbon emissions and those who are sending money outside this country to pay for petroleum products.

    2) A mileage tax which is a user tax whose purpose is to pay for highway construction.

    The gasoline tax would be applied to an income tax cut (or to make it less regressive, a refundable tax credit). The highway tax would be used for roads, and a combination of the two taxes would be used to pay for expanding transit.


    PS Everyday it seems that I am closer to having to turn in Libertarian card…

  11. Optimist – better idea – RFID. Cost is around $0.10 for the RDID chip and a few hundred dollars for the transmitter. Embed the RFID in the license plate or registration sticker.

    Houston has the first fully electronic toll road (Westpark Tollway) in the nation.

    Set up “tolling” stations on freeways and the main roads in and out of towns.

    If you drive 15,000 miles per year and get 15 miles per gallon, you consume 1,000 gallons of gas. At $0.40/gallon tax that is only $400 in road taxes. At 30 mpg you’d pay $200 and 45 mpg $100.

    At those prices you can’t afford a $100 solution for collecting taxes.

  12. I meant to say that the Westpark Tollway uses RFID only to collect tolls.

    At 45 mpg and $0.40/gallon tax you pay $133 per year. The difference between a gas guzzler and a Fusion Hybrid is just $270. Yawn.

    I agree with JC, use an RFID system to collect the $400 then raise gas taxes to discourage fuel consumption. No reason you can’t do both.

    BTW – I can use my RFID tag to park at the airport without stopping at the toll booth.

  13. I don’t know if I’m all for the GPS angle of it, but if we implement a higher gasoline tax and if over time the total amount of fuel used starts to decrease we will face a situation where gas taxes may not be sufficient to pay for road maintenance and some sort of mileage based system might be needed.

  14. I will grant you that if we make a wholesale move to alternative vehicles that pay low taxes, the funds to maintain the roads will run short. However, from what I understand small cars do very little damage to the roads anyway. I can’t attest to the accuracy, so I throw this out only as a point of debate. Someone posted this at TOD regarding the damage of big trucks versus small cars:

    “The damage to roads comes from the amount the road surface is deflected, which tends to follow the fourth power of the axle weight. An 80,000 lb five axle truck is 16,000 lb per axle, while a 2,000 lb two axle car is only 1,000 lb per axle. A 16x difference in axle weight gives a roughtly 16^4 = 65,536x difference in road damage.

    Essentially all road damage is due to either heavy trucks, studded tires, or water caused subsidence. Everything else is noise.”

    The numbers above are a bit off, given that almost no cars are less than 1 ton, and most are more like 2 tons. Still, 8^4 is 4,000x more damage than cars.

    Cheers, RR

  15. From the story I read on this same subject:

    The devices also could be programmed to charge higher rates to vehicles that are heavier, like trucks that put more stress on roadways, Atkinson said.

    If they were to do this right, there would still be the incentive to buy the fuel-efficient car. Whether they would do this fairly is another story.

    Small cars need good roads too. Even if they don’t do much damage to the roads, winter weather certainly does. I’m not convinced an all-electric vehicle should get a free pass when it comes to paying for road maintenance.

  16. How about we phase in an increased gas tax with a provision that once revenue starts to fall below what is required to maintain the roads we phase in a mileage/weight based tax along side the fuel tax.

  17. Gas taxes are the way to go. Right now, we subsidize roads through general tax revenues (for some reason, this is never brought up in discussions on why we subsidize mass transit).
    Much higher gasoline taxes should be used to make roads self-financing, and also for the positive effects mentioned by RR.
    Yes, we should be so lucky that so many drivers will switch to higher mpg cars that gas tax revenues start going down.
    At that point we can raise taxes even higher.
    And no, I do not want GPS sensors on my car.

    I say $4 a gallon, going up by $1 a year for four years.

  18. some things to think about

    1) Cost of GPS – RFID for long distance trasmission? You might be able to make a very low cost transmitter, but how long will they last, reliability, and other issues would cause it to have a very high bar if its being used to tax the american public in a fair manner.

    2) Cost of Tracking and Administrative Infrastructure

    Receivers to sense tracking devices. If its in a batch system where the mileage is recorder over time, this makes it very easy to hack.

    Geospatial databases tracking in real or near real time many vehicles. Road miles or Geographic miles (manhattan or euclidean distance).

    A system for identifying and prosecuting people who hack the system

    3) CO2 emitted due to electricity used for tracking infrastructure. Servers to track 500M vehicles (how many are on the road at any given time) – this is not an insignificant amount of server/computational power requiring electricity. Today of which about half would come from coal.

    4) Increased Bureaucratic/Admin cost to DMV – and interface between 50 DMVs and IRS. What has been the effective track record of integrating new tax mechanisms by the IRS and the costs involved?

    5) Security – someone had the clever idea of affixing a tag onto a license plate. While a cool idea, how difficult would it be for someone to remove the license plate? The cheaper the RFID/receiver, the easier it is to hack. People will find easy solutions to hacking the system from removing the transmitter to replacing the signal

    Even if you solve a few of these problems completely, how can you demonstrate that the administrative costs of implementing such a solution wouldnt cost the US more energy (not $$) than it’d supposedly save from this proposed incentive mechanism.

  19. Thanks for the question, Mr. SmartyPants.

    A: You build a series of tollgates with weigh structures that can weigh vehicles while either (1) reading a transporder (as some toll roads do now) or (2)photographing their license plates. Send them a monthly or annual bill based on weight hauled and a fixed rated for each toll gate. Still way cheaper than 500 million GPS systems…

    I don’t think your assertion that building weigh stations on all major roads is “way cheaper” than 500 million GPSes is justified at face value. Given that the GPSes in question would be exceedingly simple, and be built in massive quantities, it’s likely that you could drive the cost down to $10 or $20 dollars per unit, or even less. This would result in, using your estimate for the number of GPSes needed, a cost of $5-$10 billion dollars over the course of a decade. Assuming it would cost that much to create reading stations and the surrounding technical infrastructure, we get a price tag of maybe $10-$20 billion.

    Installing tens of thousands of weigh stations would likely carry with it far more up front costs, and on top of that, would likely cause far more damage in indirect costs to the economy due to lost hours in traffic jams on roads that previously never had a toll at all. I live in northern NJ, and one of the major commuting thoroughfares is Rt. 80. It has no tolls, but it is bumper to bumper for forty miles in to the city in the morning and out in the evening. Adding in weigh stations would effectively choke the northern part of the state – and if you want to see political fallout, go right ahead and piss off ten million New Jerseyans/New Yorkers at rush hour. I’m not sure that civil order would quite collapse, but it would come close.

    Now, I don’t know that 500 million GPSes is the answer either, and I’m not so much advocating that solution as I am trying to foster debate on the subject itself. I do think that the focus on reducing gasoline consumption cannot crowd out the need to maintain the roads themselves. A gas tax is a great idea for pushing people away from gasoline – set the gasoline price floor at $3 and push it up every year or two and we’ll see a lot of change in how we consume gas. But if that succeeds, we would need to modify how we gain funding for road maintenance, because people wouldn’t be using gas. This isn’t insurmountable as problems go – just write a law and it’s done – but it does require some thought.

    This issue has already existed for decades, leaving us with a massive backlog of work that needs to be done to maintain the infrastructure we have. Paying off that lack of responsibility and putting us back on a path of sustainable, adequate maintenance is not a trivial political task. RR asks if the proposal is a good idea – I’m not sure that it is, but even if it’s the worst of all possible proposals, at least it’s an attempt to address the core problem and can hopefully open up some debate on the subject.

    Now, as RR points out, trucks and weather do the most damage to roads and bridges. Since we can’t tax the weather, we could focus our taxation on those that do the damage, ie truckers. But they’re already hurting from the down economy, and if we all had our way we’d probably make their lives harder with increased diesel taxes. Focusing on those who do the most damage would end up being a bad move economically, and also would be unfair. We all benefit from the roads, even if we don’t do the same amount of damage, both directly by driving on them and indirectly by being able to buy the stuff that trucks move around.

    So maybe “fair” doesn’t mean “you drove X miles and Y weight, pay Z”, because that doesn’t capture all the externalities of road usage. I could sit at home for my entire life and still “use” the roads, because most of the goods I would buy would have been trucked to my house. If such a thing were possible, a specific “road tax” levied from all participants in the economy (ie, those that pay income tax) that fluctuated according to demand for repair might be an optimal solution. Trusting the federal government to efficiently monitor roads and allocate capital might be stretching credulity, but ultimately someone has to do it, and since we all benefit from the roads we all ought to chip in for their maintenance.

  20. Their hasn’t been much of a hacking problem with RFIDs. It would be pretty easy to set up a roadside RFID reader/camera to catch people who had disabled their RFID. I got a ticket in one of my vehicles for an RFID no-match. It turns out I had transposed two of the digits in the license plate. Since it was only a $15 fine equivalent to a parking ticket I paid it and then corrected the records on-line.

    Pres. Obama said he doesn’t endorse the mileage idea.

  21. The proposed mileage tax looks like a great business opportunity for the manufacturers of GPS units
    and data processing centers in Asia. The debt dollars at work.

  22. Drivers should be taxed for roads. Readers should be taxed for libraries. Smokers and drinkers for being bad people. Someone has to pay for all those clean air regulations. Let’s tax breathers. There’re dozens of services provided by government that aren’t paid for by users. There’re probably hundreds of taxes that are levied just because they can be,and not for any particular service. If we really wanted to tax drivers in a fair way for the miles they drive,we could just use tolls…..everywhere. Of course,we’d have to exempt anyone affiliated with local,state,or federal government. Ditto for low income,the disadvantaged,and minorities of any kind,including women. Good drivers would pay a surtax to rehabilitate bad drivers…..who wouldn’t be taxed of course. That would be discrimination.

  23. I do think that the focus on reducing gasoline consumption cannot crowd out the need to maintain the roads themselves.
    It’s pretty simple as RR alluded to: just keep increasing the gasoline tax as gasoline consumption is reduced. You can even do this in a very transparent way: the budget for 2009 is X, January gasoline consumption is Y, for February the gas tax is X/(12Y).

    Since PHEV are not common at this point I won’t lose sleep over how to collect their road tax. Perhaps a meter on the charger to record kWh loaded onto the battery and is read once a week/month/year.

    I could sit at home for my entire life and still “use” the roads, because most of the goods I would buy would have been trucked to my house.
    Don’t feel guilty. Uncle Sam taxes the trucker. He’ll pass on the cost of the tax soon enough…

    Adding in weigh stations would effectively choke the northern part of the state – and if you want to see political fallout, go right ahead and piss off ten million New Jerseyans/New Yorkers at rush hour.
    Nothing that a minimum… I mean necessary level of police brutality wouldn’t take care of.

  24. Hold on a minute, all you Big Taxers. Before you stick your hands deeper into other people's pockets, stop & think for a moment.

    I know I sound like Cassandra, keeping bringing up the inconvenient truth — but the Law of Unintended Consequences applies with a special virulence to those who believe they alone have been annointed to recognize a truth which escapes the Great Unwashed.

    High fuel taxes raise a major moral issue — the justice of the western Political Class seizing most of the economic rent on oil. A matter of no small interest to the sovereign nations which hold over 80% of the world's oil. Raise taxes if you want (or if you can persuade the mass of the people to vote against their own interests), but there will inevitably be unforeseen consequences down the road.

    It would make more sense to beg OPEC to jack up the price of oil. That would provide most of the "benefits" you people seek from high gasoline prices, and it would keep the money out of the hands of the domestic Political Class. Benny's "Thug States" would probably use the extra money to buy more Cadillacs and Boeings, which would stimulate the economy far better than San Fran Nan's plan to give Chinese-made condoms to India.

  25. Guys, the fundamental problem remains regardless of rhetoric – we are not investing enough in road maintenance, and obviously have zero dollars socked away to deal with it. LaHood’s idea didn’t work out, but it would be a big mistake to simply brush off the problem or ignore it altogether. It’s not just “how do you gas-tax a no gas vehicle” it’s “how do you fund responsible, long-term road maintenance”. We haven’t done so, are making no moves to do so and seem content to wait for more bridges to collapse before we bother.

  26. At first glance, I too thought this was a ridiculous idea. After seeing the comments on how this might be a more long term solution seeing that gasoline will go away some time in the next 1000 years, it started to make a little more sense.

    However, the costs seem to outweigh the benefits. This is not the kind of infrastructure we need to be building. Everyone seems to have looked at the London gate-tax as some kind of perfect example of how technology can solve a problem, where it really shouldn’t be. It’s a unique situation where technology just happened to be the easiest solution. Same thing as the EZ Pass system- technology is the right solution. But that doesn’t mean that technology should be used to solve everything.

    If you look at the various problems that need to be addressed: lack of funding for the road system, encouragement of fuel efficiency, and the erosion of funding that would occur as gasoline usage gets reduced, I think a multi-pronged approach becomes necessary.

    At the moment, adding more kinds of taxes doesn’t seem like a good idea. But when IS it a good idea? I would propose that a mileage based tax does need to be put into effect. But that a gasoline tax needs to remain.

    How this should be implemented is thus:

    Mileage taxes based on odometer readings. It’s already illegal to screw with odometer readings, odometer readings are already something people are accustomed to paying attention to when they buy and sell cars. Further, in most of the populous areas, people already have to take their cars in for safety/smog checks where the odometer reading is taken down. And further again, people have to pay for license plates every year. Why not combine the processes? Every year, you have to go to a facility. They run the various tests, they give you the approval and a bill for the year’s plate sticker. That bill comprises:

    1- the cost of the plate sticker and
    2- some kind of facility charge. this is up to the states to determine. There are a variety of ways to incentivize these costs- free of charge if you show up and your car meets the standards. A higher charge if you dont’ and have to come back. A higher charge if you want to make an appointment and avoid the lines.
    2- the federal mileage tax, which would be shown as each drivers’ share of the costs of the roads.

    Then, at the gas pump, install stickers that detail the various taxes on the cost of the gasoline. Possibly with a chart that shows the per mile costs at a couple of different MPG levels.

    This would, I think, have the following effects:

    1- conservation at all levels- the fewer miles you drive, the less resources you use up and the less it costs you.

    1b- a removal of the tragedy of the commons problem with the roads. When a resource seems free, people tend to overuse it.

    2- openness- drivers will have real data that shows how their behavior/needs cost society and thus themselves money. If I believe I need to drive a lot of miles or need a large, low MPG vehicle, I can see what that costs me. Perhaps I can see that all the driving I do really IS worth the extra $200 it costs me a year. Or I can see that it isn’t.

    3- efficiencies in government services/requirements. Why should we waste everyone’s time and tax dollars having multiple places one needs to go every year, when we can have one place that does everything in less time?

    4- this would also, I’d imagine, have a stimulating effect on the automobile makers. when people see that the ’83 Lincoln they are driving around costs them extra money, they might decide to buy a more efficient car. Further, if this has the effect of the states mandating safety checks where they didn’t have them before, it would increase the overall safety level of the vehicles on the roads, and encourage people to maintain their damned cars…

  27. Some interesting stats from the Energy Dept. report thursday. Gasoline consumption was up .8 percent y/y. Just another stat to bolster my view that the recession is over. The draq on inventories of 138k barrels was a shocker. Forecastrs expected another build of 3M barrels. OPEC will cut another 800,000 bpd in the next few weeks. I think the stage is set for another supply crunch. God help us if OPEC implements yet another supply cut next month. Since they are almost always behind the curve,I wouldn’t put it past them.

  28. I agree that if we’re going to have some kind of additional tax related to vehicles, it should be something like an increased gas tax with the tax income being offset with corresponding decreases in other taxes like income tax or payroll tax. Any tax is bad, but at least such a trade reduces the overall “tax badness”. A tax like income or payroll taxes punish good behavior (working), while a gas tax punishes (partly) bad behavior (using gas which pollutes and hurts energy independence).

    Why would LaHood be against raising federal gas taxes, but for a vehicle milage tax, in a recession? The logic twist to prefer 1 over the other in such a situation must be stunning. I understand being against a tax increase that’s not fully offset with a general tax decrease, which could happen for either type of tax, but that’s not the point under consideration.

    A gas tax, even if it resulted in no overall increased income to the government, would help with the road maintenance situation because it would reduce mileage and encourage smaller cars. I’m not at all worried about a time when a gas tax needs to be replaced with a mileage tax because cars get too fuel efficient. That’s not happening any time soon. When it does happen, we can think about alternatives, and this idea might then make sense. We will have plenty of time. I’d rate the road infrastructure problem as much less urgent than reducing oil use.

    I’ll also note that the stimulus package has a lot of road infrastructure money that should alleviate the maintenance problem.

    Disadvantages of the mileage tax:

    – investment to develop and implement the capability in technical and legal senses (the gas tax, on the other hand, already exists, and would just need a numerical increase … and tolls also already exist)

    – cost of implementing the tax equipment in each car

    – cost to administer the separate tax collection system

    – opportunity for cheating or gaming the system

    – cost of fighting this cheating or gaming

    – cost to consumer or business of repairing the tax collection equipment when it fails

    – cost to businesses and consumers as they’re forced to adjust their lives/business strategies from general fuel efficiency to reduced mileage

    – cost to consumer or business to monitor their vehicle tax obligation, account for it in their budget, regularly report their amount due, and double-check the amount that’s actually collected

    – privacy concerns

    – concerns that the technology isn’t accurate

    – the proposal punishes the wrong thing. It taxes 10mph vehicles as much as 50mph vehicles. Thus it doesn’t encourage fuel efficiency. Instead, it discourages driving in general (regardless of the fuel used), which in many cases would be a general discouragement of economic activity.

  29. On scales: My business uses a 70′ scale– the minimum necessary to weigh most tractor-trailer rigs and to short for some. This is a stationary scale, meaning vehicles must stop in order to be weighed. It also has to be monitered by a human any time it is being used (It’s the law.) The cost of this scale 4 years ago was $50,000.oo USD. Weigh in motion scales cost far more and still require human monitors.

    So the idea that we could install scales everywhere is out of the question. There simply isn’t that much money.

    A lead box will shield GPS, RFID and transponders. When GPS was first introduced to the trucking industry 20 years ago, we truck drivers often disabled it by tying a large coffee can on top of the transmitter making sure to remove it before returning to the terminal.

    What is the answer? I haven’t a clue and neither you. 😉

  30. Recyclebiil_
    I started wearing a coffee can on my head too. It blocks out rays from mind-control satellites.

  31. It would make more sense to beg OPEC to jack up the price of oil. That would provide most of the “benefits” you people seek from high gasoline prices, and it would keep the money out of the hands of the domestic Political Class. Benny’s “Thug States” would probably use the extra money to buy more Cadillacs and Boeings, which would stimulate the economy far better than San Fran Nan’s plan to give Chinese-made condoms to India.
    Kin, are you for real?

    What if the Thug States divert a big portion to Bin Laden and his type? Would you have a problem with that? How high should oil prices be to fix Nigeria? Turning into a supporter of Hugo Chavez’ policies, are you?

    Your underlying point: that we can trust the Thug States to spend the money better that the officitutes in Washinton, is patently ridiculous. And, as you can tell, I’m no fan of Washington…

  32. Guys, the fundamental problem remains regardless of rhetoric – we are not investing enough in road maintenance, and obviously have zero dollars socked away to deal with it.
    The not-particularly-fundamental problem is dishonest politicians. Happens all the time in CA: we need more money for roads, people agree to a tax increase, only for that money to disappear into other priorities.

    Have an honest discussion about that and the problem would be solved.

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