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Obama’s new CAFE plan.

I wanted to do a little writing tonight.  Something productive.  I wasn’t feeling an essay for internships, so I thought I’d check out the email I got from the Sierra Club asking me to implore Obama to continue fighting for the new 35mpg CAFE standards.  I’m sorry Sierra Club, but these new standards are downright BS.  I don’t want a band-aid solution, I want a real fix.  I’m sure my answer won’t mean a thing, but once I got writing I got a little carried away.  This is what I had to say:

Dear President Obama,

I am supposed to be writing you in support of “the strong fuel-efficiency and carbon pollution standards for new cars and trucks” your administration is advocating.  While I appreciate your interest in the environmental and economic benefits higher fuel efficiency creates, I cannot endorse this policy.  As we have seen in the past, the automotive industry is a fickle and quite capable of circumventing the goals this motion seeks to achieve.  Furthermore, the automotive industry really is not the problem here; the problem is consumers are not given the right information.  And I don’t mean advertising or sneak deals (these are an entirely different issue).  I mean pure economics.

If the Obama Administration truly wants to see the evolution of our fuel efficiency standards it must give consumers the correct information: that the real price of oil, including the negative social externalities it creates, are far higher than the measly price we pay at the pump.  The true cost of our gas-guzzling behavior is already being felt in the ever-increasing costs of the natural disasters sweeping our nation and the globe.  Obama, please commit to increasing taxes on oil!  It is the most direct way we can create the necessary environment for decreased fuel consumption through more intelligent and conservative driving and higher fuel efficiencies.

No doubt anyone reading this will immediately mention political suicide, but is it really?  How many blue-collar Americans do you think will oppose increasing taxes on oil if you couple it with an income tax cut?  Seriously, do the math.  Republicans want tax cuts and less regulation, the budget needs balancing, your average person is struggling, and no one is doing a damn thing to stop our oil addiction.  Environmental tax reform is an answer.  I won’t even bother to explain how widespread it could be applied because I know my voice here is not heard.

However, consider this: environmental tax reform will win you votes.  Hardcore conservatives will never be realistic, but centrists tend to feel the environment is important and, if they are right leaning, will prefer less regulation.  The center-lefts will of course jump on board if they would ever consider a fuel-efficiency measure.  Radical lefts will support taxing oil, and who doesn’t like having less income taken away?  Besides, given you will be facing a Republican candidate I wouldn’t be to concerned with anyone beyond left-of-center.

This might be a simplistic analysis, but the point is moot:  Environmental tax reform is the most straightforward way to address our economic and environmental needs through shortening and simplifying the tax code, reducing the burden of income tax, and reconnecting the price of oil with its true cost.  This will protect the freedom of our businesses and move people toward improving their own livelihoods with cheaper, healthier, and more sustainable transport.  Action must be taken, but our country cannot afford another jumbled attempt to attach a band-aid solution to our greatest problems.  Fix this, and fix it now.

Oh, and your economists will surely tell you something quite similar.

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