Here's what is currently being proposed to raise money to maintain roads:
Projected shortfalls in revenue led the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission, in a report issued in January 2008, to call for an increase of as much as 40 cents a gallon in the gas tax, phased in over five years.
Charles Whittington, chairman of the American Trucking Associations, which supports a fuel tax increase as long as the money goes to highway projects, said Congress may decide to disguise a fuel tax hike as a surcharge to combat climate change.
Transportation is responsible for about a third of all U.S. carbon emissions created by burning fossil fuels. Traffic congestion wastes an estimated 2.9 billion gallons of fuel a year. Less congestion would reduce greenhouse gases and dependence on foreign oil.
"Instead of calling it a gas tax, call it a carbon tax," Whittington said.
Motorists' habits spur call for tax increases
OK, raising gas prices might encourage people to drive slightly less, but not a single dollar of the revenue raised would go directly to reducing global warming. Furthermore, higher fuel prices encourage people to switch to more fuel efficient vehicles, LOWERING revenue from gas taxes.
What happened to the reasoning that investing in road infrastructure to reduce congestion simply encouraged people to move further out from city centers, increasing emissions? Where is the public policy change to reduce the rampant suburban overbuilding that creates the traffic?
We are given contrary arguments on this issue over time, whatever suits politicians' needs at the time (diverting road funds to other agencies in the name of reducing emissions vs. increasing taxes to replace the diverted funds).
Why not first eliminate the approximately $80 billion in subsidies to the oil and gas industry? Why not better allocate the over 50% of our federal income tax dollars that go towards the Department of Defense (and interest paid on war debt)? Donald Rumsfeld admitted in 2001 that the Department of Defense was so poorly managed that it couldn't even account for $3.4 trillion dollars. (Coincidentaly, that story broke on September 10, and it was military attacks using airliners the following day that effectively buryied the Department of Defense scandal, the predictable patriotic flag-waving by politicians even resulting in tremendous funding increases to the DoD, increasing the national debt to astronomical levels and setting us up for future financial collapse.)
So do you think politicians will take the bait and propose another "global warming tax" that really has its funds diverted to other programs (like Los Angeles did to fund public transit? If politicians do, will you vote them out in 2012)?
As a side note, I am concerned about global warming, but that's all the more reason to oppose measures that give the public the mistaken impression that they've already funded a response, and which divert funds that otherwise could have gone towards directly productive responses.