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How to Get Rid of SUVs - Part I


Are you enjoying the price of gasoline? I’m not. A lot of other folks are, apparently, because I haven’t seen any evidence of a groundswell of anger. The same Republican morons who would have thrown themselves under a bus at the very mention of a federal fuel tax increase seem to be happily handing over almost three dollars per gallon to help pay for the $400 million dollar retirement package for the chairman of Exxon. Of course, a fuel tax could have been used to fund research into energy alternatives, which might have saved us from the current energy mess we’re in. I’m sure retiring Exxon boss Lee Raymond will undertake something just as noble with his oily fortune. My guess would be the old coot plans to research whether it’s humanly possible to piss away $400 million on wine, women, and song in the few years he has left before he heads to that big oil field in the sky. And the Republicans have no problem with that.

If we had a government that actually gave a crap about the high price of energy, we could fix this problem in fairly short order. How, you ask? Well, here’s one suggestion. Before I go on, however, please bear in mind that I have a real job, a wife and son, and a lawn to mow, so my brain has precious little time to contemplate the world’s problems. Despite this, I have devised a simple and workable plan to get the oil monkey off of America’s back. Attention, Republicans: Start throwing yourselves under busses now.

The plan is called the “If Everybody Drove Like Me Fuel Adjustment,” or IEDLMFA. If you can come up with similar acronym that actually spells something like CONSERVE, let me know what it is and we’ll change the name. I’d love to come up with one myself, but I have a lawn to mow.

Anyway, here’s how it works. The IRS would compile a list of all makes and models of vehicles and the fuel efficiency of each. This shouldn’t be too tough. Here’s a government web site they could hit: http://www.fueleconomy.gov/. Next, they would meet with some bean-counters at the Department of Energy and get some information on projected fuel costs based on various demand scenarios for a particular year. Finally, two lines would be added to our tax forms (you know, the ones you just finished over the weekend during an eighteen-hour wrestling match involving TurboTax and a lot of profanity) as follows: 1) List the makes and models of vehicles do you own, and, 2) How many miles did you put on each vehicle last year? If your answer to 1) was “none,” then you would be asked how much you spent on public transportation last year. Save those receipts!

With your information in hand, the IRS would then calculate an answer to the following question: If every American between the ages of 21 and 65 drove like you did, how much would gas have cost last year? The IRS would then take this theoretical price of gas and subtract from it the average price of gas last year. They would take this difference and multiply it by the number of gallons you are calculated to have purchased based on the type of vehicle you drive and the number of miles you put on it. Finally, you would be either refunded or charged the dollar figure generated in that calculation. In other words, the cost of the fuel you purchased last year would be adjusted to equal the theoretical cost of fuel if everybody in America drove exactly the way you drove last year.

The ramifications of this are simple. Let’s say you drive a Toyota Prius and live three miles from work. Last year, you drove 6,000 miles. If everybody drove like you did last year, the cost of gasoline would have certainly plummeted. Because everybody didn’t drive like you, the cost of gas was much higher. Therefore, although you didn’t purchase much gasoline last year, the driving habits of your fellow Americans forced you to pay too much the little bit you did buy. Thanks to the IEDLMFA, this injustice will be rectified in the form of a tax refund.

Now, let’s say that you drive a Hummer, presumably in a desperate attempt to distract yourself from the fact that you occasionally pop a chubby when you hear the theme to Brokeback Mountain on XM. You drive 55 miles to and from work daily and pull a boat to the lake every other weekend. You drove 24,000 miles last year in this four-wheeled affront to mankind. If everybody drove like you did last year, the price of gas would have been much higher than it was. Moreover, your driving habits forced the price of fuel higher than it would have been if you had driven like a responsible, intelligent adult. Well, Skippy, thanks to the IEDLMFA, you’re going to pay the actual cost of your homophobic self-loathing. Make the check out to the Internal Revenue Service.

Finally, let’s say you don’t own a car. You take the bus to work every day and walk to the supermarket. If everybody drove (sic) like you, the fuel savings would be astronomical and most of the world’s problems would literally disappear. You deserve a medal and a fat stipend from Uncle Sam. Unfortunately, you won’t get it with this program, but you will get your bus fare paid in full.

This program would almost certainly be a revenue generator for the government. This is because the amount of the refund or penalty would be based on the number of gallons purchased. For instance, if you used 200 gallons of gas last year, and the IEDLMFA calculation determines that the price of gas would have dropped two dollars per gallon if everybody used 200 gallons of gas last year, then you would be refunded $400. On the other hand, if you used 2,000 gallons of gas last year, and the IEDLMFA calculation determines that the price of gas would have risen four dollars a gallon if everybody used 2,000 gallons of gas last year, then you get penalized $8,000. But unlike an across-the-board fuel tax, you have an option not to pay this one: Sell your Hummer (and come out of the closet while you’re at it) and purchase something that a rational adult would drive. Then the government would start helping you pay for gas instead of the other way around. Simple.

The best part is that as people get rid of their SUVs and start driving hybrids, usage of gasoline will drop as well. Normally when this happens, the price of gas drops and people soon start wasting fuel again. Not with the IEDLMFA in place. Even if the price of fuel drops, the IEDLMFA would collect the difference from the gas-oholics. If the price of fuel last year would have been $10 per gallon if everybody drove like you, then you’ll pay $10 per gallon whether the actual cost of a gallon of gas was $2.79 or 89 cents. Any excess revenue could be used to fund government research into alternative energy, unlike the billions we are currently giving to the oil industry. The IEDLMFA would be absolutely fair, would pay for itself, and would encourage conservation in a big way. It is exactly the sort of program that could save the planet. And since our government is controlled by the very people who would actually be held accountable for wasting fuel by the IEDLMFA, it doesn’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell.

For those who think it’s unfair to be penalized for wasting fuel based on one’s contribution to high fuel prices, consider this: In a really fair system, you would also be charged for the cost of instability in the Middle East, the additional health care costs incurred from your unnecessary pollution, and the pain and suffering of perhaps 100 million people who will die in the next fifty years from your contribution to global warming. In short, your dumb ass is getting off cheap in this program. I would prefer that you also be charged for the previously mentioned externalities, but let’s start with the cost of fuel, shall we?

That’s all I’ve got for today. The lawn awaits. Perhaps wandering around mindlessly behind the mower will give my brain a chance to forget about the cost of fuel. Unless the gas can’s empty, of course.

4/16/06


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