According to the Appleton Post-Crescent, presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and John McCain are suggesting suspending the federal gas tax to help drive fuel costs down so that Americans can continue to afford to drive.
Today’s prices are $3.69 per gallon in my city. With an 18.4-cent per gallon suspension, I’d still be spending over $3.50 per gallon. So instead of paying what was a record-high $3.25 last year, I’m still spending more after a suspension. Let’s do the math.
Assume I I have a 12-gallon gas tank. At $3.25 per gallon, last year I was spending $39.00 to fill it up completely (assuming I could get to the gas station on gas vapors). At $3.69 per gallon this year, I should be spending $44.28. So I’m spending $5.28 more.
Now with a gas tax suspension, the price per gallon would be about $3.51 per gallon (I’m rounding for simplicity). The cost to fill a 12-gallon tank is $42.12. That’s a $2.16 savings. But compared to last year, I spent $3.12 more. That’s an 8% increase.Â Hmm, that’s not much of a savings, is it?
But there is an unintended cost increase that both candidates neglect to mention: vehicle maintenance costs. By suspending the gas tax, the federal government collects less revenue. Less revenue means less road maintenance and repairs (some of the local and state road construction funds come from the federal government). Less road repair means more bumps and potholes. And that means more wear and tear on your car.Â So you end up spending more to repair your car than what you saved by not spending much on gas. A $2.16 savings versus a $500 auto repair… I’ll spend $2 more per gallon, thank you.
If these candidates are serious about real solutions, they would be looking at paradigm shifts. Our society is far too dependent on each individual owning his or her own car and having the convenience to drive less than a couple of miles to do whatever.
As socially responsible people, it would help for us to start asking about things like alternative modes of transportation, teleconferencing, and learning ways to reduce the need for fuel. We’re beyond the point where we realize that we need more refineries. We need to consider other forms of fuel for generating electricity and heat.
Finally, we need to drive less and walk (or bike) more. Think about it: $0 per gallon.