Target: Speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner
Goal: Raise taxes on gas to encourage individuals to seek environmentally friendly alternatives for transportation
Forbes Magazine reported that Democratic Senator Chris Murphy has proposed a federal gas tax increase of 12 cents over 2015-16. Forbes listed many good reasons for this increase. First, there hasn’t been a federal gas tax increase in over two decades. Raising taxes on gas by 12 cents would roughly bring these taxes up to date in terms of inflation over the past 20 years. Second, there are, of course, many areas of the U.S. where roads could use a makeover, and the increase in the tax could help improve the transportation system.
Interestingly, the Forbes article neglected to mention the single most compelling reason to raise taxes on fuel: raising taxes on gas raises prices on gas, which means that people will consume less gas. In fact, a review paper published by the Economic and Social Research Council suggests that at 10% increase in prices on gas would result in (1) a 1% reduction in traffic congestion within a year and up to 3% over approximately five years and (2) a 2.5% decrease in fuel consumption within a year and a 6% reduction over a longer period.
Emissions from traffic are deadly. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), traffic accidents are the second-highest cause of accidental deaths in the United States. Recently, a report from MIT scientists published in the journal Atmospheric Environment used an air quality model to predict how many individuals die due to road pollution (approximately 53,000 for the year 2005, according to the article). This number is close to double the number of people dying from traffic-related accidents (approximately 34,000 in 2010, according to the CDC).
The Union of Concerned Scientists (a group of concerned citizens and scientist which was formed at MIT in 1969) reports that a single gallon of gas leads to the release of 24 pounds of carbon dioxide (and other gases that are dangerous for the environment) into the air. This means that in one year, the average U.S. personal vehicle sends 6 tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere (to put this into perspective, the average car weighs about 2 tons, or 4,000 pounds).
Raising taxes on gasoline is a first step toward reducing fuel consumption in the U.S. It would also serve to raise awareness of the crucial need to reduce emissions from human artifacts. Applaud Senator Chris Murphy and join in urging Congress stand behind the proposal to raise taxes on gas.
Dear Mr. Boehner,
Scientific studies show that the emissions released from traffic can be deadly to humans and also contribute to global warming. We have the knowledge and technology to make a huge change in the future of our planet, but to do that, we must reduce the emission produced by cars on the roads.
Scientists now know that carbon dioxide and other emissions have devastating impacts on climate, and there are also severe and potentially immediate consequences for personal heath. Scientists estimate that there are more deaths per year based on traffic pollution alone compared to accidental deaths caused by traffic collisions.
Although inflation has skyrocketed in recent years, taxes on gas have not been raised since 1993 (currently, the federal tax is only 18 cents per gallon). Senator Chris Murphy has proposed a federal tax increase on gas of 6 cents for 2015 and an additional 6 cents for 2016, which would help bring gas taxes up to date with inflation.
Furthermore, an increase in gas prices would likely decrease consumption. Economists’ models suggest that if gas prices were increased by 10% (a somewhat larger increase than Senator Murphy’s proposal), fuel consumption would decrease by 6% over a five-year period. The bottom line is this: raising taxes reduces consumption, which reduces emissions.
I urge you to consider the positive influence such a change could have on both personal health and on our planet. Please use your influence to support proposals to increase federal tax on gasoline and to encourage party members to vote for such proposals.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Ben Lunsford via Wikimedia Commons