Argument: Gas taxes reduce miles driven better than fuel economy standards
Dan Carney. "Why U.S. fuel-economy standards don't work". MSNBC. 4 Oct. 2007 - Recognizing that burning less fuel is beneficial for a multitude of reasons, those countries employ an array of policies designed to encourage frugality. Some countries have a higher sales tax on cars with bigger engines. The fuel itself is taxed, making its purchase sting enough that consumers are willing to sacrifice some interior space. The tax on diesel fuel is lower, encouraging sales of more fuel-efficient diesel-powered models.
Friedman seeks to be seen as punishing “Detroit” rather than the little guy. And the little guy is a factor. People with lower income spend a proportionally higher amount of their money on gas, so liberals are reluctant to tax them directly.
Convoluted income-tax rebates have been proposed to alleviate this concern, and maybe that would work. But if not, perhaps people in lower-income brackets would react rationally by driving smaller, more efficient vehicles or driving fewer miles.
Applying taxes to consumers is an unpopular and unpleasant solution. But dependency on foreign oil and global warming are unpleasant problems. If other consumer-level, demand-driven tools can be devised, so much the better. If not, then taxes on engine power and fuel may be neccesary. But mandating command economy efficiency standards will not address the problem, no matter what Hudson River water-drinking columnists might fantasize.