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February 22, 2006
Sin Taxes

Booze. Cigarettes. Oil?

The surest way to break oil addiction is to make gasoline much more expensive. High gasoline taxes have helped Europe discourage consumption and promote more fuel-efficient cars.

In that vein, Americans for Energy Independence proposes a gradually rising import energy tax. The revenue it would generate "would be used for incentives to spur the move to plug-in hybrids (gas-electric cars) and a national bio-fuels campaign," said Chris Wolfe, the group's president.

Logical, perhaps, but likely?

"That's a non-starter, not just with Republicans but Democrats," said Borenstein of the University of California. He doubts that politicians have the stomach to impose a so-called "sin tax" on oil.

The one thing I rarely see mentioned in serious discussions on how to conserve energy is the appalling state of our public transit systems.

And you can trust Knight-Ridder to lay things out in simple terms. Remember the SotU and that pledge to break our addition to oil?

A day later, his energy secretary clarified the goal - it's actually to reduce oil imports from anywhere by the equivalent of 75 percent of projected Middle East imports.

The Energy Department projects that Middle East oil imports will total 6 million barrels per day in 2025, so Bush's goal means displacing 4.5 million barrels a day by then.

That's more like a bartender taking away the glass but leaving the bottle. The United States would still be consuming nearly 23 million barrels per day of oil, and about 13 million barrels a day would come from abroad.

So, you know, the speech was just manipulation of the figures to make better rhetoric.

The next big thing is expected to be plug-in hybrids whose batteries are recharged by the gasoline motor, but also can be plugged into any 120V electrical outlet for charging. Once perfected, these stronger batteries could achieve 100 mpg or more.

"You're substituting electricity for gasoline - that's the big benefit," said Felix Kramer, founder of CalCars.Org, a nonprofit in Palo Alto, Calif.

Yeah, but... Right now, most of our electricity comes from coal (if my reader comments are to be believed, and they are) and coal is both a non-renewable resource and a dirty one.

Unless we combine this with a move to drastically increase the amount of electricity we generate from wind and/or solar power, it's not really a fabulous solution.

(I can afford to be smug. Excel, our local electric utility, offers consumers the ability to purchase some portion of their electric needs from wind power. There's a price premium, but it's a "green" alternative. We switched to 100% from wind power quite a while back.)

Posted by AnneZook at 09:28 AM