The Seattle Times reports today that Seattle-area Democrats are looking to raise area gas taxes by 15 cents over the next twelve years. This is a great idea, because not only does it fund repairs of two of the region’s major transportation arterials, but it also has an interesting possible side effect: as gas taxes go up, people will begin to look for cheaper alternatives.
In a word, hybrid cars.
But the problem is that the phase-in time is too slow. If we raise gas taxes that slowly, we run the risk of having funding cut off by people who don’t understand the reasoning behind the project now. In addition, it spurs complacency. The true problem in the world today is that people do not realize the true costs of the things we buy. In a consumerist society, we are not encouraged to understand real cost versus projected cost — projected cost being what we think the object is actually worth, versus the real cost of production and environmental impacts. This ties in closely to the debate over opening ANWR — opponents (like me) say that opening ANWR will damage a precious national wildlife refuge while only yeilding an oil supply equivalent to about three years. The proponents of such a plan argue that we don’t know what the yield will be because no oil exploration has been done. Both sides ignore some rather devastating cultural impact for local tribes who would be directly affected because their way of life keeps them in ANWR most days out of the year. The invasion of oil companies would be a drastic cultural impact for them and completely change their way of life.
Granted, this situation is nothing like ANWR, since there is little chance of this being construed as a bad proposal. It fixes transportation problems before they occur (sort of), rather than the DOT’s current pattern of “try to fix the problem that we should have designed for five years ago, only to attain five years later what we should have attained today”. The Alaskan Way Viaduct is already problematic, but it isn’t quite dead yet — everyone in the Seattle area knows it needs replacement. This gives us money to act on that.
Here’s hoping this doesn’t go to the myopic voters of Washington State.
Edit (1:19PM): In an odd coincidence, the Alaskan governor has written a position piece in the Seattle Times about ANWR drilling.