It’s becoming more and more apparent that we need to find viable alternative energy sources.Â Whether it’s for economic reasons – not having to send hundreds of billions of dollars to unstable countries – or environmental reasons – not dumping billions of tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere – the time has come to kick our oil addiction and move towards clean, renewable alternative energies.
But, how are we going to pay for this research and transition, and who’s going to foot the bill?
One of the most commonly kicked around ideas is to raise the federal fuel tax from 18.4 cents to something a little more substantial.Â After all, this would be an easy way to help wean people off gasoline and at the same time help fund billions of dollars for alternative fuel research.
Unfortunately, I wouldn’t count on this rational idea coming to fruition any time soon, because whenever the phrase “tax increase” is uttered, people tend to lose their minds and politicians tend to lose their jobs.
For example, according to a recent poll, nearly 60% of people would not support a gas tax increase, even if all of the money went directly towards researching alternative energy.
The poll, which ran last week on GasBuddy.com, asked the following question: “Would you be willing to support a gas tax hike if the increase were specifically earmarked for research into alternative energy sources?”
- 10% said yes, they would
- 12% said it depended on which alternatives were being funded
- 18% said it depended on how big the tax hike was
- 57% said no, they would not
- 2% said the had no opinion
This poll, for lack of a better word, disappointed me quite a bit.Â Maybe it’s my cynical nature, but, to me, this just goes to show that while many of us are concerned about the country’s energy problems and truly do want a viable solution relatively soon, we’d just as soon not be inconvenienced until there are no other options.
Don’t get me wrong, there are certainly issues with increasing this tax – it would be more of a regressive tax, meaning it theoretically hurt poor people more than the wealthy; it would hurt many small businesses; and would likely cause consumer spending to slow even more – but it likely would not be as terrible as many of us think it would be.
Regardless, I’m not likely to get many converts to my idea, so I’d like to put forth a compromising plan.Â While it still includes increasing the federal fuel tax, it would likely be less of a burden on the average Joe and Jane.
Under my plan, funding for research of alternative energies would come from three separate groups:
- Energy Producers – i.e. companies whose current business is to deal in fossil fuels
- Energy Regulators – i.e. governments, in particular the Federal Government
- Energy Users – i.e. you and me
Energy companies – oil companies in particular – are making billions of dollars in profits each year off of unclean fossil fuels, so shouldn’t they be responsible for footing much of the research?Â If we were to enact some sort of minor windfall tax on these guys, it would be fairly reasonable to expect to generate hundreds of millions, or maybe even billions of dollars each year for alternative fuel research.
I don’t think it’s hard to argue that our growing energy crisis and dependence on foreign oil is a much better threat our economy and the well-being of every American than this current financial crisis.
Since it appears Congress can throw nearly a trillion dollars at that problem (and much more than that if you count all of the emergency funds the Federal Reserve has been providing banks) then surely they can find significant funds for alternative energy research without having to over tax the public.
I’m sure the legislative and executive branches could find a bunch of money if they looked hard enough and cut out unnecessary pork barrel spending.
Since we’re the ones currently using these unclean and non-renewable fuels, and we since we stand to gain the most by having readily available alternative fuels and energies, we should probably have to foot some of this “research bill.”Â We would do so by increasing the federal fuel tax, which would help to generate billions of dollars annually.
Additionally, this fuel tax is also a fair tax in the sense that the more you use, the more you pay.Â Think of it as the “vice” tax that’s on cigarettes and alcohol.Â Don’t want to pay, drive less or get a car with better fuel economy.
So, at the end of the day, with these three groups pumping in billions of dollars for alternative energy research, I think we can get the job done without causing too much pain to any one group in particular.
Enough about my ideas, I want to hear what you think.Â Leave a comment and tell me about your solution.