But now is not the time to abandon the green energy efforts that we’ve made, even though there have been some failures, granted. It is the time to push forward with alternatives.
Realistically, we have avoided the two most discussed options to pay for our energy and infrastructure: a carbon tax or a Cap and Trade policy.
Cap and Trade makes sense because it is a market-based solution and not a tax. But the media did a good job in telling people that it would affect private home sales, even though that aspect was removed from the bill that eventually reached Congress.
A carbon tax is, well, a tax. It would be a big government tax that stays with us. No thanks.
The Senate may be considering another route, however. The national gasoline tax has not changed since 1993. It is still at 18.4 cents a gallon. The American people do not need to pay more at the pump, just as prices are coming down.
But let’s say, for the sake of argument, that prices come down to close to $2 per gallon. A temporary 15-cent increase would mean gasoline would be $2.35 per gallon. Still not terrible, and yet, we could create blue-collar jobs and fix necessary infrastructure.
We just endured prices north of $3 for almost ten years. A very slight hike in the national tax, provided that the pump price is still low enough to stay within reason, might be a way to repair our infrastructure.
We pay almost $130 billion a year nationally in repairs to a transportation system that we put slightly more than $90 billion into through current revenue streams. If we can get to $100 billion annually, we would be able to approach fixing the transportation system, and that would create a lot of jobs, all still at a lower price of gasoline than were used to paying.
Politically, this is not easy to talk about, but if we wait we are going to have to pay taxes that go way beyond a slight jolt in the gasoline tax. Even some Senate conservatives see it as a possibility because they know that this needs to be addressed.
The only way a conversation about a tax increase makes sense is if the price of gasoline is absolutely low enough for Americans to pay it without stressing their finances.
Any increase should come with a clause that if the price of gasoline climbs to a certain point, the tax would then drop back to the original 18.4 cents. This is a way to keep faith with the consumer base.
And any increase should have a time limit – say five years – and then the federal tax drops back to 18.4 cents per gallon. Basically, this could be a way to bank money and create jobs while times are good. And it might guarantee that things will continue to “get good.”
This would require a lot of guts in Washington, and so this is likely a worse bet than taking the Jets with the points. But if gasoline prices continue to drop, we should think about building on that momentum.
Getting behind alternative energy, including natural gas, and rebuilding with good blue-collar construction jobs would be a good move. In the end, we would be wise to embrace the good luck of falling gas prices while they are here, and prepare to keep those prices down in the long term.