Right Hooks

Like Cheap Gas? How About a New Oil Tax?

Dan Gilmore · Feb. 5, 2016

Accompanying his proposed budget for the Department of Transportation, Barack Obama will issue a plan to increase the government’s investment in “clean energy” infrastructure by 50% with a $10 tax on each barrel of oil sold by the nation’s oil companies. The plan would supposedly fund high-speed rail, public transportation and research into self-driving vehicles in hopes of reducing the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions. It follows the formula that the government uses when it taxes cigarettes. Higher prices will mean fewer people pick up smoking, and the revenue, in theory, goes to anti-smoking initiatives. A White House fact sheet on the transportation plan read: “By placing a fee on oil, the president’s plan creates a clear incentive for private sector innovation to reduce our reliance on oil and at the same time invests in clean energy technologies that will power our future.”

This is the man who, just a month ago in his State of the Union Address, took credit for the nation’s low gas prices. Don’t think for a minute that the oil companies would simply absorb this tax, either. For the last year, the oil industry has been sloughing off jobs. It’s not exactly a profitable business to be in at the moment, so the tax on oil companies will be picked up by everyone driving a car.

Taxes are like nicotine: Once the government is hooked, it’s hard to funnel the money into programs that will destroy the flow of money. While cigarette taxes are supposed to fund anti-smoking programs, much of that money has simply flowed into governments' general funds. Obama’s plan will do more to handicap the economy on which Americans currently rely than to create a green transportation infrastructure.

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