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A Taxing Solution for California



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Master media-puppeteer Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) put on another show hearing on Tuesday alleging that the White House interfered in EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson’s decision to deny California (and 15 other states) a waiver to set its own fuel-efficiency laws and thus save the planet from imminent and assured destruction. Associated Press reporter Erica Werner dutifully parroted Waxman’s investigation “that amounts to the first solid evidence of the political interference alleged by Democrats and environmentalists . . . [despite the fact that Johnson] frequently has denied that his decisions are being directed by the White House.”

Whatever.

The fact is that whether EPA grants the states’ waiver or not, the ruling will be bogged down in court appeals for years, exhausting millions of dollars in auto industry and taxpayer dollars. If California & Co. were really serious about saving the planet by forcing auto fuel efficiency to 44 mpg by 2020 (eclipsing the already onerous federal goal of 35 mpg), there is something they could do TODAY that does not need federal approval:

Raise their state gas taxes to $4-a-gallon thus pushing the cost at the pump to $8.

As I reported in the Detroit News in February, economists agree — and real-world evidence proves — that raising the price of driving is the quickest way to get consumers to buy more fuel-efficient vehicles. In Europe, for example, gas taxes have goosed the price of gas to $8-a-gallon with the direct result that average fuel economy stands at 39 miles per gallon, (compared with 24 mpg in the U.S.) or within reach of California’s 2020 goal.

By contrast, absent gas-price signals, 30 years of federal command-and-control regulations — similar to those proposed by California — have been a failure at decreasing consumption.

Yet even in California, home of the country’s greenest electorate, pols cower at the idea of a gas tax because it is political suicide.

Take State Rep. Ira Ruskin, for example, a Democratic Waxman ally who represents ultra-enviro-moralist Silicon Valley and is one California’s most outspoken legislators on climate change. When asked if he would propose Euro-style gas taxes, he replied: “A gas tax is not feasible.”

What is feasible, apparently, is outsourcing California’s pain to Midwestern states, forcing their auto manufacturers to spend billions retooling their fleets to sooth California’s social conscience.



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