Want a Holiday From Gas Taxes or Traffic?

Senators John McCain and Hilary Clinton are among many in Congress clamoring for a gas tax "holiday" as fuel prices rise and the summer driving season fast approaches. Never mind that they focus entirely on poor consumers and fail to discuss the implications to businesses trying to get goods/services to market. Is there any benefit to either group from leaving the tax alone? Or increasing it?

Lee Wasserman of the Rockefeller Family Fund wrote a great essay in Grist on the topic (http://gristmill.grist.org/story/2008/5/13/12175/0733) including some benefits to everyone of reigning in greenhouse gases. And there’s evidence that you can save much more than the planet by leaving things as they are - - according to the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), high gas prices are contributing to a marked decline in traffic.

Traffic on some of the nation’s most congested freeways is down as much as 24%, largely due to higher fuel prices (www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-traffic12-2008may12,0,3131880.story?track=rss). That means businesses, which can’t take a "holiday" from delivering goods and services if they want to remain in business, have fewer delays getting from A to B and, presumably, lower costs. In the bargain, everyone breathes cleaner air and the planet warms a tiny bit more slowly.

Now that’s a holiday worth having, even if it costs a few pennies more at the pump up front.

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