Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Fossil Fuel Lobby that Cried "Tax"

Average US regular gasoline cost over the past year from (See current graph or for other timeframes here). More on this at the end.

It is an apparently common feeling that taxes are evil and the only good tax is a cut tax. For many people tax cuts are a universal "solvent", in that they will solve any problem or make anything better. Bad ecomony? Fix it with tax cuts! Good economy? Make it better with tax cuts! Your children are ugly and dumb? You need a tax cut!

If tax cuts are good, then by extension tax increases are evil. Therefore one of the most common attacks at least in the American arena is the rhetorical threat of higher taxes. How do you scare a lot of people into reflexive opposition of something? Tell them it means higher taxes.

So it is not surprising that fossil fuel industry groups squeal about "cap-and-tax" to attack "cap-and-trade" emissions trading systems. And of course there are commercials shaving down action on energy policy to claims of higher energy taxes.

Is it just me, or have those local/regional commercials asking the strawman question of what higher energy taxes would mean to North Dakotans disappeared from the airwaves lately? Maybe I am just not catching them like on the local news where they had been fairly common, but they seem to be gone. You know them if you saw them. There were a few variations - the guy who looked like he was working on a house and finished by saying 'not a good deal', the older lady apparently in a parking lot dispensing her energy policy wisdom, and I think there was a younger woman who said something like visits to family would become too expensive.

Granted, maybe the purchased run just ended or the buyers (API?) of the commercials are cockily (but unfortunately, reasonably) feeling there will not be federal legislative action completed on energy and climate policy.

I wish though the commercials disappeared because the fossil fuel groups were beginning to fear their cries of 'tax' may come back to haunt them.

Look back at the graph at top of the average regular gasoline price in the US over the past year. It shows a 40% increase, and that was not due to any new energy laws. But using the same rhetorical tricks as the fossil fuel industry we can still say it is due to a tax, like the oil addiction & no energy policy tax. Gasoline use averages about 450 gallons per person per year, so that oil addiction & no energy policy tax in annual terms has increased over $1500 per family of four over the past year. And that is not counting anything from increasing costs of other petroleum products or of other products because of higher gas costs.

Something tells me that right now that there will be fewer people pushing the myth we can simply drill our way to a lower oil addiction & no energy policy tax, er, gasoline price.

Pretty much everyone understands some costs now payoff later - spending on food now is better than starving later, paying for shelter now is better than homeless later. Hopefully people can also come to understand that a forward-looking energy policy is beneficial compared to remaining so dependent on polluting and climate change causing fossil fuels that will continue to grow more costly to extract and supply. Maybe the public will have been primed to oppose the "energy taxes" of increasingly expensive dirty energy sources and paying to deal with climate change.

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