Thursday, May 04, 2006

More on fuel prices

Yesterday I briefly adverted to the political realities that make environment groups hesitant to call for tax increases on fuel. Those realities are highlighted in this story from the US:

NPR's Morning Edition had an interesting story this morning ("High Gas Prices Quietly Welcomed by Environmentalists") about whether gasoline consumption can be better curbed through regulation or through high prices (particularly a tax). Economists feel that gasoline prices would need to double and remain there (i.e. $7-8/gallon) before behavior would really change, and advocate a gas tax to get us there. The externalities (accidents, smog, global warming, etc.) are simply not reflected in the current price of gasoline. Environmentalists, however, feel that a gas tax is a complete political dead-horse, fearing that it would be extremely unpopular with most Americans, and advocated regulations...

9 comments:

Rob Dawg said...

Environmentalists having been saying exactly the same thing for 10 years as an infamous Sierra Club webpage so embarrassingly shows: http://www.sierraclub.org/sprawl/articles/subsidies.asp

The externalities they cost out are vague and unsupportable while at the same time they ignore every single positive externality no matter how well documented.

The true agenda is one of irrational and unreasoned hatered of the private moror vehicle. It is that simple and therefor that intractable. You see even the progess in the last few decades failed to sway the anti-auto crowd as there's is a conclusion based belief system.

To further reveal the true agenda, one need only examine what these self proclaimed environmentalists would do with the tax money. Invest in more efficient roads to reduce pollution? No. Invest in advanced technology to reduce the negative externalties? No. Institute by back programs for the worst polluters to purchase low emissions vehicles? No. Instead they want to spend money on public transit despite no evidence whatsoever that transit either saves energy or reduces externalites. Why then transit? Because transit allows a degree of control over individual lifestyles unattainable by any other means in a Western Democracy. Again, an agenda so hardheaded it resists rational discussion.

David Jeffery said...

I don't buy any of this stuff that global warming, biodiversity loss, etc etc are all conspiracies invented by some environmental juggernaut trying to control everyone's lives. Every environmentalist I know is someone who could earn twice as much accepting the status quo and getting a job with some random big company. It's just ideological bullshit Robert. It's easy to say, impossible to verify and so boring and unimaginative.

The public transport versus private transport efficiency debate is an empirical question that's different for each city and for different areas within cities so it's also absolute rubbish to suggest that private transport is always more economically efficient. In some areas I have no doubt it will be (although I'm yet to see any evidence from you Robert of any city in which an economic study has actually found this) but in most densely populated cities with a decent public transport infrastructure, public transport is going to be a more efficient mode of transport - at least for getting to people to and from work and to most big places around the city.

And, hey, what are the postive externalities of private transport that you claim are so well documented?

Rob Dawg said...

I cannot prove a negative. Besides you couch your challenge in such restrictive terms you'd find reason to reject evidence anyway. You start out with cites then proceed to dense cities and then to dense cities with good transit systems and then dense cities with good transit systems getting people to and from work. Why not specifiy that it be yellow trams versus fushia minivans while you are at it?

If you don't know of the body of literature citing the positive externalities of roads based goods and services transport then this is not the place for introductory lectures.

David Jeffery said...

Come on Robert, I'm giving you a free kick here. You complain that environmentalists "ignore every single positive externality no matter how well documented". Well here's your chance to tell everyone about all the positive externalities of private transport. Surely you can do better than "If you don't already know, I'm not going to tell you".

As for public transport in large cities, you may like to trivialise it but it's an important issue, particularly here in Australia where more than 80% of the population lives in large cities. I think arguments about the efficiency of public versus private transport that don't consider the size and structure of cities aren't likely to be very helpful.

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