Sunday, May 04, 2008

Obama and the gas tax

It's a close race for the Democratic nomination; Obama's still got a good lead, but a few things have hurt him recently. His former pastor decided to do whatever he could to torpedo Obama's campaign, as long as he got a few more headlines out of it. And he's been getting hammered for not joining McCain and Clinton in pushing to temporarily repeal the federal gas tax. It's an easy thing to turn into an issues in a ten-second sound bite, which is a shame, because Obama's actually right. Suspending the gas tax won't make any functional difference in gas prices; eighteen cents per gallon is less than the amount by which prices vary from one gas station to the next (and we're still paying less for gas than anyone in Europe). It's all political grandstanding.

I would vote for any candidate from either party who's willing to say in public that we're running out of oil; everyone agrees it's a finite resource, and that we will eventually run out (defined as, when it's no longer economically feasible to produce). The only question is the timetable, and even the most generous estimates put peak oil production within 30 years. The most cynical say peak production has already passed, and that from this point forward we're going to be producing less oil every year. The question is, why isn't any politician pushing for action now, to minimize the trauma when the oil runs out?

The thing that surprises me is that higher gas prices haven't motivated anyone to make a lifestyle change. I haven't seen a noticeable increase in cycle commuters, and the buses are still populated with the usual riders. I wonder how expensive gas will have to get before I actually see a significant number of cyclists....

Side note: Orson Scott Card has some thoughts on gas and energy that should be required reading. I don't often side with Card on many things political, but I'm in 95% agreement with him on this entire essay.

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