THE average price of gasoline in the United States, $3.78 on Thursday, has been steadily climbing for more than a month and is approaching the three previous post-recession peaks, in May 2011 and in April and September of last year.
But if our goal is to get Americans to drive less and use more fuel-efficient vehicles, and to reduce air pollution and the emission of greenhouse gases, gas prices need to be even higher. The current federal gasoline tax, 18.4 cents a gallon, has been essentially stable since 1993; in inflation-adjusted terms, it’s fallen by 40 percent since then.
While I do think that the gasoline tax should go up over time, I also agree with Obama’s decision to focus on improving mileage standards was a smart one. Think about the millions of people living in small towns or rural areas where even a bus route just isn’t feasible. You’re increasing their burden without them getting any of the benefits. You could say that everyone benefits from slowing climate change, but people have a hard time putting a monetary value on something that abstract and that far into the future.