Our View: Gas tax waiver no solution | TheUnion.com

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Our View: Gas tax waiver no solution

Congressman John Doolittle, who represents us here in the foothills, is proposing that the federal government suspend its 18.4-cent-per-gallon tax on gasoline for the next 30 days. That federal tax is designed to pay for our highways, bridges, etc. and is where the recent $286.4-billion Pork Barrel-Riddled Transportation Bill money originates.

In a press release, Doolittle is quoted as saying. “The economic impact of Hurricane Katrina comes on the heels of a summer that recorded record-high gas prices. Right now the federal government should not be a contributing factor in the rising cost of gas.”

We’re sorry. The federal government is, and has always been, a contributing factor to the rising costs of gasoline and a 30-day cease fire will do nothing to address the problem. Instead of focusing on short-term solutions, our congressman ought to be promoting conservation (through greater tax incentives, etc.) and demanding an investigation of the oil companies that are showing record profits amid consumer suffering.

And if Doolittle really wants to help, perhaps he can start by asking why the $286.4 billion in approved federal transportation spending is being wasted on projects that serve little, or no, practical national purpose.

“The Highway Bill is a fiscal car wreck,” said Tom Schatz, president of the Citizens Against Government Waste. “The sweet smell of pork has blinded members of Congress to the waste and inefficiency of federal transportation policy.”

He cites one provision in the bill that would pay for a $3 million documentary about advancements in infrastructure in Alaska and the renaming of a controversial bridge “Don Young’s Way,” in honor of the Alaska representative who happens to chair the House committee overseeing transportation.

Then there are the oil companies. According to one recent report, eight governors have already asked the president to investigate price gouging. They base their assertions on a study done by University of Wisconsin economist Don Nichols, who says that for gasoline to cost $3 per gallon, the barrel price that OPEC charges would have to be $95. Since OPEC is presently charging $58 a barrel, the oil companies need to provide Americans with a few answers.

To his credit, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger recently endorsed a gasoline conservation effort called, “Flex Your Power … at the Pump.” Recognizing that we’ve probably seen the end to low pump prices, it’s time for California – which has one of the greatest love affairs with the automobile in the world – to conserve.

Some recent examples include:

• A recent law allowing single-drivers of hybrid (gas-electric) cars to use carpool lanes. Only hybrids that get at least 45 miles to the gallon qualify.

• Tax credits for consumers who purchase hybrids and diesel-powered cars and light trucks (which reminds us that the federal investigation ought to also look at why diesel fuel costs more than regular fuel).

• Incentives for farmers to retire their polluting diesel irrigation pumps and replace them with electric motors.

For those who continue to drive regular gasoline vehicles, we encourage you to:

• Slow down. One study reported that for all vehicles tested there was 20 percent more fuel efficiency when speeds were reduced from 75 to 55 miles per hour, for example.

• Reduce the use of air conditioners and low driving speeds. When driving at 40 mph, for example, using the air conditioner uses less fuel than driving with the windows rolled down.

While gasoline prices and high gasoline taxes need to be closely watched, the real progress will only come when we all realize that we simply must reduce our dependency on oil. And that, we’re afraid, is a long-term journey that must begin immediately.