Energy conservation and taxing gas

Well, we have some good news about Americans. A recent survey indicates that we Americans are concerned about and motivated towards energy conservation. These are the results of only 2164 and I don’t know how the sampling was done, but it does seem encouraging nonetheless. The reasons for the motivation are two-fold. Cost savings (especially in this economy) and a moral obligation to do things such as reduce the contribution to climate change. From the article:

While saving money is by far the most common reason why people take energy-saving actions — including insulating their attic, caulking and weather-stripping their home, setting their thermostats to more energy-efficient levels and buying a more fuel-efficient car — large numbers of respondents said they were also motivated to reduce global warming, by the desire to act morally, and by taking energy-saving actions that made them feel good about themselves. By more than a 2-to-1 margin, respondents also said they believe that making changes to reduce their energy use will improve — not diminish — the quality of their lives.

The main barrier to towards taking positive steps is the start up costs. I can supply a personal example. I carpool right now, but would rather take the train to reduce dependence on gas and oil and to not have to sit in traffic. However, the train is considerably more expensive than just carpooling and so unfortunately the financially sound decision is to keep using the car. On top of that, the other member of the carpool does not have convenient access from the train station to work, so at least one person has to drive anyway.

One interesting idea one of my family had was related to gas prices. The idea was a flexible gas tax. When gas prices are lower, as they are now, a higher tax rate kicks in, with money going towards infrastructure and mass transit. When prices go up, the rate automatically falls accordingly. This would have the benefit of keeping what people pay for gas relatively stable (I don’t know, say around $3.00 /gallon) and provide incentive to use less (effects on pollution, some on oil supply, traffic, etc.), either through driving less, carpooling, or mass transit. One problem with this idea is that when gas prices are high, less money will be coming in from this source towards mass transit. That’s something that would need to be addressed. But overall, I think this tax idea is a pretty good starting point on which to base some discussion on stabilizing gas prices, providing incentive to use less, and raising money for infrastructure. Maybe we should send Obama this idea. Any thoughts from readers?

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