Gas Taxes Hit Unprecedented Low

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Own a car? If so, you're pulling less of your weight than ever before, with gas taxes hitting unimaginable lows. For comparison, a gallon of water costs about five times what you pay in taxes on a gallon of gas, according to Streetsblog.

In fact, the average price of a gallon of gas is just $3.23. That's super-cheap compared to the rest of the world.

That has some economists worried, pointing out that we'll never reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and cars at this rate. The gas tax was last adjusted almost twenty years ago. The Economist called a rise in gas prices "as close to a win-win solution as one is likely to find."

Congress agrees. Commissions agree. Streetsblog estimates that a modernized gas tax would bring in over half a trillion dollars over six years, while still lagging far, far below what other countries charge.

The sense of urgency stems from a variety of sources: unrest in the Middle East, climate change caused by fossil fuels, and a growing awareness that cars are not in our future. In addition, the planet is all but guaranteed to run out of petroleum reserves at some point in the next few decades, at which point we'd better have some alternatives lined up. It'll take a few million years of decomposition before the Earth can convert more biological matter into fuel.

After all, points out economist Thomas Friedman in the NY Times, the Middle East is not a bottomless gas station.

The solution is simple, if not necessarily easy, says Business Insider: reduce oil usage by investing in sustainable energy. Adjust taxes to match the price of oil, rather than setting it once in 1993 and forgetting it.

Of course, paying a bit more at the pump won't be fun. But it's not half as painful as waking up one day in the future and realizing that our money has been paying for dictators to abuse their citizens, and that all of the oil wells have run bone-dry.

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