An Open Letter to Rep. Larson, Sen. Murphy, Sen. Blumenthal, and President Biden on Gas Taxes
As I’m sure you’re all aware, gas prices are currently at record highs. The president is asking for a three-month federal gas tax holiday to try to help. The proposal would save the average driver $0.18 per gallon, and diesel drivers $0.24 per gallon. This proposal is a huge mistake and I want to explain why.
First, gas taxes are not causing the spike in gas prices. The spike is mostly from market pressures which will not be affected by a tax holiday. Here in Connecticut, we have already suspended the state gas tax and it did nothing to stop the rise in prices. The price is set by what the market will bear, taxes or no taxes. A plan to address the problems in the fuel market would be welcome. A gas tax holiday is nothing more than an ineffective bit of pandering.
Second, gas taxes raise vital money for important projects. A tax holiday leaves us with three unappealing alternatives. We could end up with underfunded infrastructure projects and poorer mass-transit options or we could divert money from somewhere else and leave that area underfunded or we could dip into the emergency funds leaving us more vulnerable to natural disasters. Since the holiday would only save, at best, $2.70 on a fifteen-gallon fill-up, the knock-on effects aren’t worth it.
Third, artificially lowering the price of gas encourages more driving. With the climate crisis, that’s the opposite of what we should be doing. There are real ways to lower the price of gas that would be consistent with our climate goals. We can encourage public transportation. A fare holiday for all trains and busses would be an excellent start. We can also encourage remote work and remote conferences and things like that. I understand the COVID burnout, but these things really did lower the price of gas back in 2020. And we can incentivize oil alternatives. If I could heat my house without oil, I wouldn’t worry so much about fuel prices.
I could go on, but I think you get the idea. A gas tax holiday would actually hurt more people than it would help. We have other legitimate options that would help people while being consistent with our broader goals. I hope you’ll consider what I’ve said and get off this misguided path.