Sunday, March 27, 2005

Friedman's Gas Tax

Usually Thomas Friedman is kind of a bozo. But I do find his constant harping on a gas tax to raise the price to $4 interesting. It's not as if it's a political possibility. But it would be responsible. And given that I don't exactly live in the world of the politically possible, I think it's something to have a real public discussion about.

Related and perhaps more interesting is the question of when will rising gas prices actually begin to curtail Americans' excess driving and purchasing of gas-guzzling vehicles. Clearly the $2.25 we are now paying in New Mexico isn't making much of a dent. I have heard people talk about wanting to buy a truck that gets a little better mileage--they were talking about 24mpg. Which is an improvement I guess over 15mpg. I have also heard that SUV sales had flattened but that they were replaced by rising sales of large trucks. Considering that there is little reason to believe that the price of oil will go down anytime soon, probably when the price gets so high as to send China's economy into recession, when will real driving changes take place? Will it be at $3 a gallon? Maybe. I imagine who this is really affecting is the working class, which in New Mexico are mostly immigrants. Since working people can't easily live in Santa Fe, they have to commute to their jobs from Espanola and other working-class communities 20 or more miles from the city. High gas is probably affecting them but of course they're not really part of the national discussion.

In any case, if anyone has any bits of evidence on whether high gas prices are changing transportation habits, I'd be interested in hearing it.