The federal gas tax was last hiked in 1993, but the Speaker of the House thinks he can solve the shortfall in US transportation budgets without raising it. The Hill:
House Republicans plan to pass a bill by year’s end that would tie new infrastructure funding to federal revenue generated by an expansion of domestic energy production, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) announced Thursday.
The GOP has long pushed for more American oil and gas production as a way of reducing the nation’s dependence on foreign energy sources, and the Speaker’s plan could help Republicans rebut Democratic claims that they are ignoring crumbling roads and bridges across the country.
That’s like a child sucking harder and harder on a straw to get the last dregs of milkshake out of the cup. American domestic oil production peaked in the early 1970s — after domestic oil discovery peaked in the previous decade — and not because of a shortage of drilling rigs, either.
Petroleum is simply a limited resource, and most of America’s share has already been sucked from the ground to be burned in our engines. It’s gone, it’s not coming back, and that’s because fuels are fossils: no amount of drilling will alter the natural limits of our petroleum reserves. America is merely the leader in peak oil; the rest of the world is following close behind, as global production has peaked in the last decade.
Boehner also means to increase fracking for natural gas, one supposes. Yet the problem with fracking is certainly not overregulation, as the industry was exempted from every form of environmental management during the Bush Administration. No, this is not about energy at all, or infrastructure, or even jobs, but the same old energy culture war. It’s not like Boehner tried to tie transportation spending to, say, solar or wind power generation — two energy industry sectors booming now and expected to be huge in the next decade.
Moreover, the shortfall in transportation revenues has no relationship whatsoever to drilling or the pace of drill activity. As gasoline has become more expensive (due to global demand increasing faster than supplies) and as our engines have become more efficient (thanks to increased CAFE standards), revenues have been perversely affected downwards. Americans are also cutting back on trips in this recession, further decreasing revenues at exactly the time that transportation spending would be most welcome in the economy.
This would be the moment for a smart country to hike its gas taxes and prepare transportation systems for a post-oil future; John Boehner wants to do the opposite. It’s not really surprising anymore when Republicans deny the laws of physics, and sad that so many Americans — especially those living in the bubble of the Beltway — still imagine he has a point. Not one bridge or mile of highway will be repaired this way, but I’m afraid we’re not a smart enough country to get that.