In the United States, we got used to paying $4 a gallon for gasoline. As I traveled around the country, I paid more several times. We didn´t like it but we paid it.
Today in Des Moines we are paying close to $1.40 a gallon, probably less tomorrow. Of course this won´t last long, although depending on whom you listen to, it could be several months, maybe a year, before it goes up a lot.
What if we put 50 cents a gallon tax on all petroleum used for transportation? Yes, cars, trucks, airplanes, railroads, boats, farmers, everyone. This could then be used to rebuild our infrastructure. The term infrastructure here is used loosely to encompass roads, bridges, water treatment plants, etc. We could choose to include mass and rapid transit systems and alternative energy. A sunset of $3 a gallon could be built in, so that as petroleum got to, say, $100 a barrel, we start knocking off the additional tax gradually.
The numbers here are huge. According to the EIA [Energy Information Agency/Department of Energy] we go through in excess of 600 million gallons of gas, diesel and jet fuel a day in the United States, or 4.2 billon gallons a week. At 50 cents per gallon, this is $2.1 billon a week. This sum would put 72,500 [U.S. DOT figures] people to work for a year in the construction industry rebuilding infrastructure.
We are used to paying so much more, I do not believe this would damage us. Of course, no one wants to pay more, but I believe we are crazy not to take advantage of this opportunity.
Can you imagine the moral boost we as Americans would feel? We would be able to say we are rebuilding that which needs to be rebuilt and are paying cash. The taxes paid by these folks going back to work would not hurt a thing either.
Our biggest problem would be to say to ourselves, this will help, but it must be done immediately, we cannot wait.
Des Moines, Iowa
(Feb. 2 issue)