Conservatives for the Gas Tax (Goldberg Now Geo-Green)

A New Era for Oil,” by Jonah Goldberg, The Corner, 30 March 2005,

Jonah Goldberg joins the geogreen movement

Maybe it’s the nitrogen bubbles in my brain or the afterglow of reading Bob Samuelson’s column today, but I finally feel willing to float a trial balloon in the Corner which, I admit, has been launched more times than the Goodyear blimp: Increase gas/oil taxes.

Admittedly, current high oil prices have caused pain for some and are probably a drag on the economy in significant respects (the airline industry, for example), but the negative effects certainly don’t track with the predictions of doom and gloom which typically accompany fuel tax proposals. Clinton’s 4.3 cent a gallon tax elicited howls that the economy would go off the rails, for example. Well, now gas prices are much higher than they were in 1996, though still lower — adjusted for inflation — than they were in the early 80s. And, more to the point, the economy seems to have absorbed high gas prices better than most would have predicted.

Anyway, since it’s impossible to deny that our dependence on Middle East oil — or our dependence on foreigh oil, a lot of which comes from the Middle East — skews our foreign policy in undesirable ways (and enriches folks we’d rather see make their money from ordinary development), it seems worth considering a tax system which weans us of oil as much as possible. Demand from China and India will be putting upward pressure on oil prices for decades to come. And since I’m increasingly sympathetic to consumption taxes in general, it seems to me a fuel tax is a good place to start.

Goldberg mostly repeats geo-green talking points, but I am glad to see Jonah give President Clinton the credit he deserves. America’s economy is weaning itself off of foreign oil (as a percentage of GDP), but a higher gas tax would help that process along.

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