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Transportation Science

Why Fuel Efficiency Advances Haven't Translated To Better Gas Mileage 891

Posted by Soulskill
from the bigger-better-faster dept.
greenrainbow tips an article about a research paper from an MIT economist that attempts to explain why technological advances in fuel efficiency haven't led to substantially better gas mileage for the average driver. Quoting: "Thus if Americans today were driving cars of the same size and power that were typical in 1980, the country’s fleet of autos would have jumped from an average of about 23 miles per gallon (mpg) to roughly 37 mpg, well above the current average of around 27 mpg. Instead, Knittel says, 'Most of that technological progress has gone into [compensating for] weight and horsepower.' ... Indeed, Knittel asserts, given consumer preferences in autos, larger changes in fleet-wide gas mileage will occur only when policies change, too. 'It’s the policymakers’ responsibility to create a structure that leads to these technologies being put toward fuel economy,' he says. Among environmental policy analysts, the notion of a surcharge on fuel is widely supported. 'I think 98 percent of economists would say that we need higher gas taxes,' Knittel says."
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Why Fuel Efficiency Advances Haven't Translated To Better Gas Mileage

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  • Statistics (Score:5, Insightful)

    by homer_s (799572) on Friday January 06, 2012 @07:15PM (#38616056)
    I think 98 percent of economists would say that we need higher gas taxes Knittel says.

    93% of all statistics are made up. 99% of economists know that.
  • Laissez faire (Score:2, Insightful)

    by SigNuZX728 (635311) on Friday January 06, 2012 @07:17PM (#38616078)
    "'It’s the policymakers’ responsibility to create a structure that leads to these technologies being put toward fuel economy,' " No, it's the market's responsibility.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 06, 2012 @07:18PM (#38616096)

    Adverse conditions to not favor top heavy rear wheel only SUVs.

  • Re:Laissez faire (Score:5, Insightful)

    by h4rr4r (612664) on Friday January 06, 2012 @07:20PM (#38616122)

    This is then a market failure. What we should do is tax fuel at a rate that makes it internalize the costs it normally externalizes when the results go out the tail pipe.

  • Are they nuts? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by epyT-R (613989) on Friday January 06, 2012 @07:21PM (#38616130)

    The reason people hate taxes is because they are commonly used as punitive measures to modify behavior. This is NOT what they should be used for. Thanks to federal and state government not having the discipline to operate within a budget, we pay too much as it is, and coupled with the rise in inflation every time washington prints more money, the people at the bottom are the ones who get burned at both ends, in savings and expenditures. Raising fuel taxes hurts these people even more because they are not able to afford a new car every few years and thus are most likely the ones driving 10+ year old models, nor can they afford to pay even more at the pump than they already are. If money needs diversion to research new technologies then it should come out of the pockets of the oil companies, not consumers. They shoulder enough of the yoke as it is while large corporations are the ones who benefit the most from government economic management.

  • by cojsl (694820) on Friday January 06, 2012 @07:23PM (#38616148) Homepage
    One of the US crash safety standards required by the NHTSA that adds weight and expense to new vehicles is for "unrestrained drivers", despite the fact that under 10% of US drivers go un-belted these days. The punch line is that the IIHS found the NHTSA test not very useful, because un-bented passengers often aren't held in place in front of the intended safety devices.
  • Re:Statistics (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sneakyimp (1161443) on Friday January 06, 2012 @07:30PM (#38616256)

    Has it occurred to you that your dependence on said travel might be a critical strategic danger for your economy? Or that your dependence on oil from the Middle East might be a critical strategic danger geopolitically?

  • by sneakyimp (1161443) on Friday January 06, 2012 @07:31PM (#38616268)

    Yeah, get a Subaru.

    Mod parent up.

  • Re:HUH? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NicBenjamin (2124018) on Friday January 06, 2012 @07:32PM (#38616278)

    Keep in mind that the US Gas tax is used to pay for highways, that it's not indexed to inflation, and it was last raised early in Clinton's first term. Which means it doesn't actually cover the cost of maintaining highways.

    The result is that my, non-car-using, ass has to pay income taxes to subsidize all these people who love their cars so much, but if I dare to ask them to pay for a train or another bus I'm breezily told "nobody will use that."

  • electronic junk (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JustNiz (692889) on Friday January 06, 2012 @07:35PM (#38616330)

    Given all the electronic junk such as ABS, TCS, TPS, multiple airbags, electric seats, motorized windows, mirrors, rear-seat DVD players etc etc that they shovel into cars as standard these days, All the efficiency gained is probably mostly lost in extra weight and power consumption to drive that stuff.

    I for one would welcome the opportunity to buy a simple car without all that junk, except there isn't really the option any more. Apart from the fuel savings, think of the production cost savings the car companies could pass on to the consumer.

  • Re:Statistics (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SleazyRidr (1563649) on Friday January 06, 2012 @07:38PM (#38616374)

    Even then, goods that need to be transported further will increase in price more, leading more people to choose locally produced stuff, benefiting the economy in that way.

  • Re:HUH? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by gbjbaanb (229885) on Friday January 06, 2012 @07:39PM (#38616398)

    Tax breaks on new cars where MPG meets a certain requirement?

    How abotu a rolling tax break on cars with increasingly higher MGP? ie, as the efficiency goes up and the MPG goes up, the amount of tax you pay is reduced?

    I think that would be great.... all you need to do is tax gas. The less your car uses, the less tax you pay. Simple.

  • by NicBenjamin (2124018) on Friday January 06, 2012 @07:41PM (#38616418)

    Because they're so simple. They would also allow our highway fund to be self-sustaining, which would mean that we could stop subsidizing it with income taxes from people who don't drive. Things like tax credits and CAFE Standards can be gamed.

    In the long-term taxes also have the advantage of getting people used to $6 Gas. Oil production isn't rising. Indian and Chinese guys are finally getting rich enough to drive home for the holidays, which means it's inevitable that gas will go up. Period.

    But since everybody pays the gas tax all the time nobody wants to be responsible for raising it, therefore we get a mess.

  • Re:Laissez faire (Score:4, Insightful)

    by chrylis (262281) on Friday January 06, 2012 @07:42PM (#38616428)

    It's only a market failure if you believe that a handful of politicians and bureaucrats should be making choices for millions of individuals and families rather than allowing those individuals to make choices (and bear the costs) for themselves.

  • by novalis112 (1216168) on Friday January 06, 2012 @07:42PM (#38616442)

    I'm not necessarily against taxing gasoline. However, before we start using a gasoline tax as a tool to force people to behave a certain way, maybe we should consider eliminating the billions of dollars of subsidies given to the oil industry so that we can see the *true* price of gasoline?

    (NY Times on oil subsidies: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/04/business/04bptax.html [nytimes.com])

    All the posters here keep crying about how "the open market" has failed, but we aren't in an open market, so that is nonsense.

  • by Rifter13 (773076) on Friday January 06, 2012 @07:44PM (#38616474) Homepage

    And, let me guess, you live in an area that gets little to no snow, and does not have rugged mountains.

    The problem I see with a lot of these types of articles, they are written by (and comments like this made by) people that have not experienced the west. The snow, the mountains, etc. Most people I know, have 4wd vehicles. That is because 2wd, even front wheel drive, are not good at handling really bad roads.

    I've NEVER seen an SUV that had trouble getting over speed-bumps. If you are talking about vehicles cut down, you are not looking at a SUV. You are looking at a toy.

    I can't afford 2 cars. Jumping gas prices would just hurt me. I don't think that FORCING higher gas prices via taxation is a good idea. As it has been shown. With our economy, jumping the gas prices also sends us into a recession.

  • Re:Well... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cayenne8 (626475) on Friday January 06, 2012 @07:44PM (#38616478) Homepage Journal
    Whatever you think..taxes should not be used for behavioral manipulations.

    Taxes are for funding the govt services we all need...that should be it...period.

    People should be free to choose to drive and spend in the fashion they wish.

    Taxes weren't passed to allow a 'chosen' few to dictate citizen behavior....

  • Re:Well... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ackthpt (218170) on Friday January 06, 2012 @07:52PM (#38616598) Homepage Journal

    Whatever you think..taxes should not be used for behavioral manipulations.

    Taxes are for funding the govt services we all need...that should be it...period.

    People should be free to choose to drive and spend in the fashion they wish.

    Taxes weren't passed to allow a 'chosen' few to dictate citizen behavior....

    So you advocate rolling back tobacco taxes?

  • by hawguy (1600213) on Friday January 06, 2012 @07:53PM (#38616612)

    The increase in gas prices hasn't drastically changed what vehicles we buy. Many of those that really would rather buy more efficient vehicles can't afford them, and are stuck with older ones, so the economists would just be hurting the poor.

    As consumers shouldn't we choose what vehicle economies we use? Where I live, SUVs are all over. But, it makes more sense. Adverse conditions favor SUVs. An economist, you would think, would say people buy what they want.

    Few people really *need* a 4WD SUV or even an AWD car.

    When I lived in the northeast, I commuted entirely with a front wheel drive car. I put on snow tires in the winter, and never got stuck (or in a winter time accident). For 3 winters, I moonlighted as a snow-plow driver for a local business, so part of my commute meant driving in conditions that many people stayed home in (and I regularly saw 4WD vehicles that had run off the road). As long as the roads had less than 8 inches of snow, I was good to go - beyond that I'd need more ground clearance than my car provided. I did resort to chains on a few icy days.

    Smart driving and snow tires are much better than blind trust in an SUV. And unfortunately, many SUV drivers do appear to use that blind trust rather than good driving skills.

    4 wheel drive (or AWD) only helps you move forward, you already have 4 wheel braking, and for most of us, it's the braking that's more important when driving in adverse conditions.

    Now it's possible that you have a need to travel on unmaintained roads to your cabin in the woods, for that I'll grant you that an SUV may be helpful (but not infallible, get a Sno-cat if you *have* to get somewhere in the snow)

  • by Stumbles (602007) on Friday January 06, 2012 @07:54PM (#38616620)
    That easy, especially if you live in a State like Ohio. On all the gas pumps is a sticker that shows the combined percentages of Federal and State taxes applied to a gallon of gas. Last I looked it was like 49% went to taxes.
  • Re:Well... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by atriusofbricia (686672) on Friday January 06, 2012 @08:01PM (#38616714) Journal

    Whatever you think..taxes should not be used for behavioral manipulations.

    Taxes are for funding the govt services we all need...that should be it...period.

    People should be free to choose to drive and spend in the fashion they wish.

    Taxes weren't passed to allow a 'chosen' few to dictate citizen behavior....

    So you advocate rolling back tobacco taxes?

    Speaking for myself, absolutely. Taxes used for social engineering are wrong. Period.

    The purpose of taxes are to pay for the government. If the specific role of fuel taxes are to pay for the roads, then raising them with the idea of forcing 'economy' is wrong.

    It is also amazing to me that some of the same people who will practically demand such taxes in the name of the environment will turn right around and argue that a flat tax is wrong because it hurts the poor. As if the higher fuel tax doesn't?

  • Re:Well... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by I_Love_Pocky! (751171) on Friday January 06, 2012 @08:02PM (#38616730)
    Individual behavior that has a societal cost should be fair game for targeted taxes. In many cases I think that allowing someone the freedom to engage in the costly behavior while asking them to compensate society for the privilege is preferable to an outright ban on the behavior.
  • by longfalcon (202977) on Friday January 06, 2012 @08:02PM (#38616732) Homepage

    says you. when there is foot-high mud or water that Subaru's ground clearance will suddenly be an issue.

  • Re:Well... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by atriusofbricia (686672) on Friday January 06, 2012 @08:04PM (#38616762) Journal

    Ok. But should taxes be used to capture the costs of externalities not accounted for otherwise?

    For instance, the increase in the cost of healthcare caused by polution isn't reflected in the price of gas at the pump. That cost is passed along to society at large. Do you think it's appropriate for that cost to be captured by a tax?

    No. For two reasons. The first being that once you allow government to start collecting taxes for "externalities" then you've given them practically a blank check for whatever new taxes they want to levy, as long as it is to "capture the cost of an externalty." Second, It ought not be the role of government to be deciding such things. What's more, who is to say what the increase in cost of health care is or even if it can be tied to car pollution or any other sort.

  • Re:Well... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Firehed (942385) on Friday January 06, 2012 @08:06PM (#38616786) Homepage

    Is that a problem, though? Don't think of it in terms of MPG, think about $/mile. Hippies care about MPG, the rest of us care about the cost of transportation and MPG is currently our most meaningful metric to gauge that. Handily, $/mi also works across all vehicles, including public transportation and bicycles. Based on some rough estimates, my current cost is about 12.5c/mi (~$4/gal, ~32MPG), if I exclude the purchase price of the car. If I bought a Tesla tomorrow (or perhaps an EV that's a bit less expensive), how many miles could I go on 12.5c worth of electricity? More than one, I expect. Net gain, all other things being equal (they obviously aren't - this excludes purchase price, maintenance, etc).

    No matter what the cost of fuel is, it's always financially advantageous to go with the vehicle that consumes less fuel. Gas could be $0.10c/gal or $100/gal. You need to take the emotion out of the equation. Are you getting dicked over by the fuel companies? Probably. It's still better to pay less by having the more efficient vehicle.

  • Re:Well... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by I_Love_Pocky! (751171) on Friday January 06, 2012 @08:07PM (#38616804)

    The purpose of taxes are to pay for the government.

    As long as we have any publicly funded health care, then government is paying for the health consequences of smoking. With that in mind, why is it wrong to tax a behavior that increases an individual's societal burden?

  • Re:Statistics (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DanTheStone (1212500) on Friday January 06, 2012 @08:09PM (#38616830)

    I frequently walk to work, which is a real challenge here since some of the lights don't have crosswalks here and I'm the only person on foot. My argument is not on my own account.

    Gas taxes hit poor people with old vehicles much harder than affluent people with large vehicles. You're not thinking like an economist, you're thinking like a politician. As was Knittel.

  • Re:Statistics (Score:3, Insightful)

    by atriusofbricia (686672) on Friday January 06, 2012 @08:14PM (#38616878) Journal

    So, only raise the gas tax for passenger vehicles. It's not that hard. You can rebate gas taxes for truckers, you can have truckers show a commercial license and have the tax waived. It could be done with a keychain fob the same way you get a discount at the grocery chain with your little card with the bar code.

    Yeah, screw the poor who will end up paying those taxes. It's not like they might need their car to get to work or go to the store or anything.

    Here in Chicago, the streets are clogged with people driving alone in SUVs the size of locomotives. All day long, you can drive up and down Ashland Ave and there will be one Suburban or Nissan Armada or Navigator or some other ridiculously huge vehice with a single person driving all by herself. Those drivers need to pay a higher gas tax to cover the externalities they are forcing the rest of us to pay.

    First, who are you to say they shouldn't have those cars? I personally think they're silly for most people but that's my choice as much as to drive the things are their choices. Would you care to define these so-called 'externalities' they're forcing you to pay?

    Better yet, maybe it would be a good thing when people start realizing there is a great benefit to living closer to where you work. How much of societies productivity and time and expense is thrown down the drain in daily 2-hour commutes?

    Who cares how much time is 'thrown down the drain'? Is it not my time to waste or would you advocate taking it away from me? It would be nice to live close to work and be there quickly. You know what else is also nice? Not living in the crime infested crap hole that is Chicago. I know for damned sure if my choices were living inside Chicago or outside it the long drive would absolutely be worth it to me. Of course, I wouldn't live in Illinois at all, so there is that. :)

    I think people may already be starting to learn a little bit. You want to go to the exurbs of any major metropolis, you'll find that housing prices have dropped a lot faster out there than they have closer in to the city. And let's be clear: most of us live in cities. The term "flyover country" is actually pretty accurate.

    Condescending much? Do you also look down on all those hicks living in the central parts of the State? When Chicago votes one way and the rest of the entire state votes another, do you rub your hands with glee that they are forced to live the way you want or move out of the state?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 06, 2012 @08:16PM (#38616898)

    You do realize that very little oil is coming out of Iraq right?

  • Re:Laissez faire (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Yunzil (181064) on Friday January 06, 2012 @08:29PM (#38617010) Homepage

    That's cute. You think the market will naturally do what's right instead of what's profitable. :)

  • Re:Well... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 06, 2012 @08:29PM (#38617014)

    Take a look at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sumptuary_tax

    One of the original reasons given for a tax like that:

    The sale of alcohol necessitates higher costs in policemen and prisons, Pigou argues, because of the crime associated with alcohol. In other words, the net private product of alcohol businesses is peculiarly large relative to the net social product of the same business. He suggests that this is why most countries tax alcohol businesses.

    In the case of oil, there are many costs beyond that of simply producing the oil, refining it and transporting it. The most obvious is the cost of maintaining trade relations with many OPEC countries. Most industrial countries would have no need of Middle Eastern countries if they weren't sitting on a sea of oil, and could leave them to their own devices like countries in Africa and South America.

    There's the cost of CO2 emissions, although many people are still burying their heads in the sand about this.

    Then there's the cost of transitioning from oil. We could wait until we simply run out of cheap oil before doing anything, or we can preemptively start the long process of transitioning away from oil as a primary source of fuel used for transportation.

  • Re:Well... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by atriusofbricia (686672) on Friday January 06, 2012 @08:30PM (#38617026) Journal

    The purpose of taxes are to pay for the government.

    As long as we have any publicly funded health care, then government is paying for the health consequences of smoking. With that in mind, why is it wrong to tax a behavior that increases an individual's societal burden?

    That is one of the problems with government funded health care. Because as far as that goes, your logic is correct and I'm sure we'll be seeing more of that kind of thing in the future. Though, perhaps we ought to kick government out of health care before it is too late.

  • Re:Well... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AngryDeuce (2205124) on Friday January 06, 2012 @08:37PM (#38617128)

    I don't know, ask all the overweight people out there what's wrong with a junk food or fast food tax?

    The cost of obesity on society is 100 times the cost of smoking on society, and we're footing the bill just the same as with smokers. Ask yourself this: if a parent allows their child to eat themselves into their own grave, does that constitute child abuse? Should the state be allowed to remove the child from a home that does not make sure their children are of a healthy body weight? If a child is severely underweight, the state will absolutely take a child into custody, it happens all the time. But overweight? Never.

    So how do you feel about a crappy food tax? Because honestly, I find that nine times out of ten, the person that is all about the smokers tax thinks the shitty food tax is just going too far. That's not to say that it is always true, but it usually is. Smoking is considered the dirty habit, but cramming 10 servings of powdered mini donuts in your mouth in a single sitting isn't? Eating 3 Double Cheeseburgers for lunch with an extra large fries and half gallon of coke isn't a dirty habit, too?

    And then there's the excuses "Why should I be punished for eating fast food once in a while?! I am not overweight!!" That's a bullshit excuse because not everyone that smokes gets fucking lung cancer, but they all pay the tax just the same, don't they? So the fact that a person is healthy and only eats a little candy is immaterial.

    Mind you, I'm not a smoker, but I used to be, and it really was the increased cost of the things that encouraged me to quit...$7 a pack when I finally managed to lock myself in the house for 3 days without cigarettes and get off of them once and for all. I just find it funny how hypocritical most people are when it comes to smokers, and how easily they ignore their own bad habits. Human nature, I guess...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 06, 2012 @08:40PM (#38617164)

    Fuel taxes do make a big difference. I've been abroad and never saw a single huge SUV in the entire time I was there. The truth is when you FEEL the money you're spending and literally can't afford more, it does force you to make changes.

    Another issue is health and comfort -- I know it sounds unrelated but it's not. When I was abroad, I saw very few overweight people as compared to here (in the U.S.). Yes, it's sad, (all actual conditions aside) throw away any sense of self-responsibility and call it an "epidemic" -- as if you 'caught' your fat when someone sneezed on you -- if you want, call it your "genes"...whatever...it doesn't really matter what name you ascribe to it. The bottom line is when your rear end warrants buying an extra plane ticket, you're not going to fit, let alone be very comfortable in a Chevrolet Cavalier, VW Beetle, Toyota Corolla or other fuel-efficient, compact vehicle. Yes, there are other larger and still somewhat efficient vehicles but the larger you go, the less fuel-efficient they get and seat size doesn't go up very quickly. This is a real factor these days especially when so many people are overweight.

    All that aside, we are SPOILED here in the U.S. Perhaps I'm one of the few who will happily admit this but what we call a 'family-size sedan' here is what they'd call a 'luxury-size sedan' in Europe. I can't tell you how many times I see some tiny woman in designer shades speeding down the highway in a Cadillac Escalade...with NO passengers in the car. --and how many mpg is she getting? What sort of efficiency is that to be hauling so many tons of metal in a not-very-aerodynamic vehicle just to transport some tiny woman that probably weighs 125lbs or so. I understand the need for more space if you have 3+ kids (though I don't understand the notion of ever wanting that many kids...). But why do you need so many extra seats just to transport the average family of two partners and 2.5 children? That fits nicely in a sedan -- even a Corolla!

    We need to go on the "put the f-ing fork down" diet, chill out a bit and not need to compensate for with a huge monster of a vehicle and just pick something sensible. Hey, if extra taxes on gas do that for us, so be it. I'd be HAPPY to pay my share if it stopped this rampant abuse of natural resources...especially when clearing the road of those huge trucks makes the roads inherently safer for smaller vehicles!

  • Re:Laissez faire (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Asic Eng (193332) on Friday January 06, 2012 @08:48PM (#38617228)

    Of course politicians should make those choices, that's what a representative democracy is all about. It's certainly not the job of millions of individuals to work out which detailed choices they have to make to reduce dependency on foreign oil and to individually implement the required policy.

    Even if the majority were doing the right thing: the result would be a decrease in demand, leading to lower price. That in turn would allow the minority to burn more oil at the same cost - meaning the majority would have to accept a reduced living standard in order to let a minority reap the benefits. It's the prisoner's dilemma, and we know from game theory that this yields the worst total result for the players. The way out is to come to an agreement which moves to make and enforce that. The mechanism to implement that is composed of elections and government.

  • by mombodog (920359) on Friday January 06, 2012 @09:00PM (#38617346)
    If the govt would get out of the petroleum regulating business and stop putting additives into gasoline we would get better fuel mileage, it all started with MTBE, now its Ethanol. When MTB came out in the US, my 82 VW Scirocco went from 42mpg to 32mpg on the first fill up of that shit gas.
    Stop fucking with the fuel!
    Make one grade of gasoline that gets the best fuel economy possible for most cars.
  • Re:Laissez faire (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Eli Gottlieb (917758) <eligottlieb@gCOWmail.com minus herbivore> on Friday January 06, 2012 @09:05PM (#38617388) Homepage Journal

    A market is not a living being. It has no will. It has no responsibility. There's a reason that for negative externalities like pollution, we rely on leaders with human will rather than markets with computational power.

  • by f97tosc (578893) on Friday January 06, 2012 @09:13PM (#38617480)

    Whatever you think..taxes should not be used for behavioral manipulations.

    Taxes are for funding the govt services we all need...that should be it...period.

    Almost all taxes manipulate behavior, it is just that we are more used to some type of taxes than to others. Intrinsically it is no more manipulative to tax a scarce polutant vs taxing work, investment and real estate like we do today.
    I would rather say that since we need some taxation to support certain government function, let's tax the things with the least negative (or even positive) manipulative effects. Taxing gas would come well ahead of taxing work in that argument.

  • Re:Well... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by xelah (176252) on Friday January 06, 2012 @09:19PM (#38617554)
    All taxes modify behaviour, intended or not. At the moment most taxes are raised in ways which result in modifications to behaviour which are bad. For example, taxes on labour, and taxes that cause corporations to prefer debt financing over equity financing when there's no underlying business reason to do so. You have to pay your taxes somehow.....much better to have them levied on things where there's an obvious economic advantage (like fuel and anything else with negative externalities) than where the opposite is true. There's a limited supply of those things, but what supply there is isn't being fully used.
  • Re:Well... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ChrisMaple (607946) on Friday January 06, 2012 @09:25PM (#38617602)

    The cost of obesity on society is 100 times the cost of smoking on society

    I find that nine times out of ten, the person that is all about the smokers tax thinks the shitty food tax is just going too far.

    What, pulling numbers out of thin air? Who, me?

  • Re:Statistics (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tompaulco (629533) on Friday January 06, 2012 @09:29PM (#38617632) Homepage Journal
    All day long, you can drive up and down Ashland Ave and there will be one Suburban or Nissan Armada or Navigator or some other ridiculously huge vehice with a single person driving all by herself. Those drivers need to pay a higher gas tax to cover the externalities they are forcing the rest of us to pay.
    Congratulations! Your wish has already come true. They already pay more taxes because they buy more gas. That is the magic of percentages.
  • Re:Well... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by willy_me (212994) on Friday January 06, 2012 @09:30PM (#38617646)

    Whatever you think..taxes should not be used for behavioral manipulations.

    I would argue the exact opposite. Taxes are the only way to fairly manipulate behaviour. Should it be in the overall interest of everyone to reduce our rate of fuel consumption, a tax is the only way to go. What are the alternatives, make gas guzzling vehicles illegal? Or how about requiring automakers make specific types of cars.

    A tax on gas will change national behaviour without placing limits on what we can do. Want to drive a Hummer? - just be ready to pay for it when you fill up. The tax acts as an incentive for people to minimize fuel consumption. This is better then the alternative as people retain the freedom to do drive and purchase whatever vehicle they want.

    People should be free to choose to drive and spend in the fashion they wish.

    Yes, but when those "fashions" have a negative impact on their neighbours then it is time to apply a tax. The true cost of a product is not measured with just dollar signs. For example, the environmental repercussions of consuming a product are almost never part of the original purchase price. If the "invisible hand" is going to work correctly, monetary values for those repercussions must be artificially added in the form of a tax.

  • by tompaulco (629533) on Friday January 06, 2012 @09:35PM (#38617692) Homepage Journal
    self-indulgent rich dicks want land barges that pollute *my* environment
    Where I live, I see a lot more lower income people driving around Expeditions, Escalades and Navigators. The wealthier people tend to buy high dollar sedans or hybrids.
    Really poor people have '90s era Sedans or SUVs that get just as bad gas mileage as a modern land barge.
  • Re:Well... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Stephan Schulz (948) <schulz@informatik.tu-muenchen.de> on Friday January 06, 2012 @09:39PM (#38617730) Homepage
    If you do not allow society to lay the cost of externalities onto the perpetrators, you invariably produce a tragedy of the commons [wikipedia.org]. You can, in principle, use Ron Paul's approach and simply make people pay for polluting private property - i.e. if you produce CO2 that turns up in the air over my property, you are trespassing and need to pay damages. But that is technically implausible for shared resources like air, water, and the ecosystem as a whole. Thus, using taxes to approximate the externalities is a reasonable approach. Of course we can only approximate the cost, but that is no different than with any other financial planning, wether by government or in the private sector. Very very few projects end up exactly on budget. That's not a reason not to plan, nor is it a reason not to act.
  • Re:Well... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Teancum (67324) <robert_horning AT netzero DOT net> on Friday January 06, 2012 @09:43PM (#38617770) Homepage Journal

    Really?! Then what is a government supposed to tax. Any economist will tell you that negative externalities are *exactly* what a government is supposed to tax and then use the money to subsidize positive externalities. The government is certainly not the most efficient body in the world, but I'd argue that compensating for externalities should be the government's first priority.

    Any economist? Keynesian economists, perhaps, would argue the POV you are espousing right now. Many who follow the Keynesian school of thought are in prominent positions in government power including the current chairman of the Federal Reserve as well as the President of the United States... and several treasury ministers in other countries too. And how they've been handing the economic situation over the past five years or so is supposed to give us confidence that they are doing the right thing and their philosophy is sound?

    There are several economic philosophies which do not accept this basic premise you are claiming here, in particular those who follow the Austrian school of thought instead. Most of them feel that personal liberty is far more important than some sort of command economy controlled by some government bureaucrats, because those same bureaucrats simply can never have enough information to make proper decisions in the first place.

    At issue here to is a sense of trust on the part of the government towards its citizens. A government which trusts its citizens to do the right thing is by far more likely to give you personal liberties and stay out of your life than a government which wants to monitor every detail in your life and protect you from yourself. Are you sure you want a government sticking its nose into your business, telling you how to live your life?

  • Re:Statistics (Score:4, Insightful)

    by rickb928 (945187) on Friday January 06, 2012 @09:48PM (#38617814) Homepage Journal

    "All day long, you can drive up and down Ashland Ave and there will be one Suburban or Nissan Armada or Navigator or some other ridiculously huge vehice with a single person driving all by herself. Those drivers need to pay a higher gas tax to cover the externalities they are forcing the rest of us to pay."

    I do. Compared to a Prius driver, I pay about 225% more in gas taxes per mile.

    Of course the Prius driver is paying perhaps a 40% of the taxes per mile for road maintenance, and I'm waiting to hear if a Prius causes that much less wear than an Explorer does. Maybe so, maybe not.

    So indeed, I do pay a higher tax per mile, and more tax by using more gallons.

    Your point?

  • by rickb928 (945187) on Friday January 06, 2012 @09:57PM (#38617896) Homepage Journal

    Let me guess, you live in an area where public transit is practical and available. Sell that to the rural poor. Not the ones a few miles out of town, but the ones who need to go 30 miles to a hospital or 15 miles to a supermarket.

    There is a lot of territory in the U.S. that is just too sparsely populated to support public transit. Period. Would your solution be to move the poor closer to services? That's been done, my friend. The results are not clearly superior to not doing so.

  • Re:Well... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Nethemas the Great (909900) on Friday January 06, 2012 @10:01PM (#38617932)

    I have a hard time with that. We live in a world where "because f**k you is why" is the attitude of far too many people. Far, far too many. The libertarian ideal of "the government can piss off and get the hell out of my life" leaves open an unimaginably large chasm that ought to be occupied by societal responsibility, harmony and equality. To remove government as the modulator of behavior will see anarchy, chaos and destruction fall in to replace it. Everyone doing what's right in their own eyes cannot sustain a functional society. Some may think rape is OK because "really it's just good fun and that's what women were made for right?", others dumping toxic waste into rivers isn't a problem, I'll drive 90MPH down the highway and ignore red lights if I think the intersection is clear. etc. etc.

    Nobody will ever agree with every behavior the government chooses modulate. That's obvious, but without a conductor the symphony is just going to break down into a discordant mess. As members of that society it is our responsibility to be educated, and provide intelligent, well thought out feedback to the government doing the modulating. This regrettably is often the missing component.

  • Re:Well... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by DogDude (805747) on Friday January 06, 2012 @10:10PM (#38618044) Homepage
    Find out who made it toxic and sue then for the cost of cleanup.

    Good luck with that.
  • I live in Canada. I've lived in Canada all my life (Alberta and Quebec). I can rock a FWD car out of a snowbank that is up to the wheel wells. If I can't move the car with a shovel, a bit of time, and my own effort, most 4WD vehicles wouldn't have made it out of that situation either.

    I've driven in blinding snowstorms through the crow's nest pass in the Rockies, and I've been stuck on the top of the Coquihalla with the semis putting the chains on their wheels. I made it through there just the same as they did. All I needed was some winter tyres and a modicum of care.

    With traction control systems and some experience, driving in the snow is not a thing that requires 4WD. I know that they're better in the snow and ice, but they're not essential. Even with the car that I have (diesel VW Jetta wagon), which has a very low nose and consequently not much ground clearance, city driving in bad conditions isn't a concern. If it's so bad that I can't move the car, it's too bad to be driving, period.

    If you need an SUV or truck—and there are people that do, obviously—then that's fine. But you almost never need one just for day-to-day things driving in the city.

  • by Alex Belits (437) * on Friday January 06, 2012 @10:29PM (#38618202) Homepage

    Most of the US, if not the world, does not have any form of public transport.

    No, that's just US. In the rest of the world "city planner" and "fuckheaded asshole" are two different professions.

  • Re:Well... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Dixie_Flatline (5077) <vincent.jan.goh@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Friday January 06, 2012 @10:32PM (#38618226) Homepage

    By what mechanism does the market stop pollution?

    The problem with everyone that bleats about the market correcting itself is that they forget that the ideal market relies on ideal people that are well informed at all times and have enough information to make a decision.

    CO2 is colourless and odourless. How is the average person supposed to know the effects of CO2 if there isn't an expert to tell them that this is a problem? And once the expert has informed them, what recourse does that person have? The government is a way to make decisions on behalf of citizens to protect them and to give them power that they don't have individually. While it's not feasible for EVERYONE in a population to know about the problems CO2 cause, it IS possible for a few people to know and to give their expertise. Then it is the government, acting on behalf of the people (since the people selected the government, or the government is otherwise ostensibly acting in the best interests of the population) that can move to remove these problems that affect the whole population, whether they know it or not.

    The government has done this many times, usually through regulation. For instance, there isn't lead in gasoline anymore. We don't have as big a problem with CFCs anymore (though the lingering effects of our past mistakes is still around). Etc.

    However, what we're talking about here is something that is both dangerous but to an extent, indispensable. It simply isn't currently possible to maintain our way of life without fossil fuels at the moment. New technology will not be able to upset the status quo until such time as fossil fuels are unavailable because new technology is almost always less efficient and costs more while economies of scale aren't present. And, again, not everyone knows or believes the harm that is being done. This is exactly the sort of thing that the government was meant to take care of.

    By levying taxes—and in this case, I believe they should be revenue neutral taxes—they can change behaviour, fix the problem that the market is itself unable to solve because of the flaws of the actors involved, and generally leave us in a better position than when we started.

    Governments protect our best interests, and the market protects its OWN interest. There is a reasonable balance to be struck.

  • Re:Laissez faire (Score:2, Insightful)

    by TooMuchToDo (882796) on Friday January 06, 2012 @10:42PM (#38618306)

    You're a god damn moron. "Distance" is not essential for safety. Materials that will deform to absorb energy in a collision is what increases safety. Do you think they put foam insulation under the hood? No. They use metals in specific shapes and configurations that rapidly absorb energy during accident-caused decelerations. Stronger metals (magnesium, for instance) that are at the same time lighter are also utilized.

    You *do not* need to sacrifice safety to increase fuel economy.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crumple_zone [wikipedia.org]

  • Re:Well... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TooMuchToDo (882796) on Friday January 06, 2012 @10:58PM (#38618412)

    "At issue here to is a sense of trust on the part of the government towards its citizens. A government which trusts its citizens to do the right thing is by far more likely to give you personal liberties and stay out of your life than a government which wants to monitor every detail in your life and protect you from yourself. Are you sure you want a government sticking its nose into your business, telling you how to live your life?"

    Unfortunately, from what I've seen, most people are fucking morons. And yes, I'm OK with the government charging me more to smoke, drink, and eat shitty food if they're going to provide healthcare. I'm OK with the government charging more for fuel and coal-generated power due to their externalities. Your rights end where the next person's right's begin, and that includes the water and air you pollute for someone else, as well as the costs you shove onto someone else.

    It's always "personal liberties" when it's your rights, and not someone else's rights.

  • Re:Statistics (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ConfusedVorlon (657247) on Saturday January 07, 2012 @07:26AM (#38620566) Homepage

    Not so simple.

    1) Raising fuel taxes a lot certainly influences car choice and average mileage. Look at the average car in the UK vs the average car in the USA.
    The large trucks/suv/etc which are common in the USA are almost unheard of in the UK. Similarly, your idea of a compact economy car (e.g. at a rental company) is our idea of a large sedan. Over the last few years, our fuel costs overall have gone up significantly and there has been a noticeable shift towards smaller more economical cars. I can't find hard stats, but I'll eat my hat if this doesn't flow through to average mpg.

    2) Raising more tax via fuel would allow the government to reduce the tax burden elsewhere - so there isn't _necessarily_ a significant impact on the cost of all goods - just a shift of cost towards goods with high transport costs.

  • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Saturday January 07, 2012 @08:37AM (#38620798) Journal

    Eliminate Euclidean zoning for the most part. In case you're not aware that name comes from Euclid, Ohio where it was pioneered. It's the kind of zoning where "all the houses are here, all the businesses are there". Get rid of it, and you eliminate a lot of trips.

    I remember playing SimCity for the first time as a child and seeing this kind of zoning and wondering what kind of insane city would implement such a system, since it would mean that people would spend a huge amount of time travelling and no one would be living near where they worked nor where they shopped. It seemed completely ludicrous and I assumed it was some unreality that they'd inserted to make the game more challenging, since there was no possible way of designing a sane city with those rules. Then, 10 years later, I visited the USA for the first time and saw that you really do lay out your cities like that. No wonder Americans consider their cars to be so important...

  • Re:Statistics (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheRaven64 (641858) on Saturday January 07, 2012 @08:44AM (#38620820) Journal

    Just remember the USA isn't the EU, with everyone packed together in little clumps, you are talking a HUGE area with people spread out all over the place

    Check the numbers. The median and modal population densities for the USA are higher than the EU, only the mean is lower. Or, to put it another way, the infrastructure required for 80% of the US population is less than the infrastructure for 80% of the EU population. The vast majority of the US lives in cities with much higher population densities than you'll see in most of the EU.

    Check the last story about broadband in the US for some real numbers - I bothered looking them up then, I'm too lazy to do it again. Yes, there are lots of people living in the middle of nowhere with tens of miles to their nearest neighbour in the USA, but they're statistically irrelevant from an infrastructure perspective. 100% coverage is much harder in the USA than the EU, but 80-90% coverage is a lot easier.

  • Re:Well... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Hognoxious (631665) on Saturday January 07, 2012 @12:21PM (#38621992) Homepage Journal

    The US was founded to give everyone opportunity...to succeed or fail on their own merit...nothing more.

    The line between that and being allowed to shit on people and be an asshole just for the fun of it is thinner than you might imagine.

    I suspect you might have already crossed it.

Aren't you glad you're not getting all the government you pay for now?

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