The lubricant of the global economy is having a fire sale: a barrel of crude oil in Texas now costs less than $50. Which makes now the perfect time to raise taxes on gas.
The U.S., of course, already has a gas tax, but it has not gone up since 1993. As a result, the things the gas tax is supposed to pay for—roads, bridges, tunnels—are crumbling. And when gas is cheap, people tend to use more of it, and they buy gas guzzling SUV’s while sales of hybrids and other fuel-efficient cars languish.
As a result the air gets worse, whether you're talking about choking smog, insidious soot or, yes, climate change. A gas tax would help reduce all that damage. And it's an idea that even some tax-hating politicians have warmed to—as long as it's called a user fee instead.
And if we really want to get serious about climate change and other environmental ills, we might consider taxing all fossil fuels, which are too cheap given the health costs they impose. Such a carbon tax could help keep coal, oil and natural gas safely in the ground in favor of alternatives like electric cars and cleaner power plants. For American politicians, however, such a notion may be a bridge too far.
[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]