Saturday, August 27, 2005

Continental gas

Christian Science Monitor | Gas prices too high? Try Europe.
$7 a gallon? That's what drivers in Amsterdam pay. But Europeans have long adapted to high prices.
So the Monitor leads us into another examination of the superiority of European fuel policies. Real men pay more for gas. But buried down in paragraphs fourteen to sixteen is the real reason.
"The single most effective measure" that has brought down motorists' fuel use in Europe, however, is taxation, says Dings [Jos Dings, head of Transport and Energy, a coalition of European environmental NGOs].

On average, 60 percent of the price European drivers pay at the pump goes to their governments in taxes.

In Britain, the government takes 75 percent, and raises taxes by 5 percent above inflation every year (though it has forgone this year's rise in view of rocketing oil prices, and the French government has promised tax rebates this year to taxi drivers, truckers, fishermen, and others who depend heavily on gasoline.) On August 8, for example, the price of gas in the US, without taxes, would be $2.17, instead of $2.56; in Britain, it would be $1.97, instead of $6.06.
So. European gasoline prices would actually be lower than American prices, if not for confiscatory tax rates, which they have somehow convinced themselves are a good thing. The Monitor appears to agree, since they've backed into the numbers by saying that "60 percent of the price goes to their governments in taxes." Whereas, if one were approaching this from the perspective of the base price of the gas, one would have to say that the actual tax rate is 150%-200%.
"The biggest hole in our policy today is fuel taxation," [...says Lee Schipper, head of transportation research at the Washington-based World Resources Institute, an environmental think tank]. "Tax increases are something Americans should do but don't know how to do, and I wonder if they will ever be able to."

What planet are you from?

America has a history of resentment toward purely punitive tax, dating back at least to that unfortunate incident in Boston with all that tea.

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