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January 28, 2021

Killing Jobs and Raising Energy Prices

The Biden administration has plans for your gas tank, and you’re not going to like it.

New Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has a dilemma: He can’t decide which method he prefers to use to take more of Americans’ hard-earned money and transfer it to government coffers.

One one hand, it seems the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, prefers a good old-fashioned tax increase on gasoline. “I think all options need to be on the table. The gas tax has not been increased since 1993, and it’s never been pegged to inflation,” he stated during his Senate confirmation hearing last week. “And that’s one of the reasons why the current state of the Highway Trust Fund is there’s more going out than coming in. Up until now, that’s been addressed with general funding transfers. I don’t know whether Congress would want to continue doing that.”

Buttigieg also sees electric vehicles as a problem in that regard. “In the near term, we need a solution that can provide some predictability and sustainability,” he added. “In the long term, we need to bear in mind also that as vehicles become more efficient and as we pursue electrification, sooner or later there will be questions about whether the gas tax can be effective at all.”

Right now, the federal gas tax is 18.4 cents per gallon, and the average of total state taxes is 29.8 cents per gallon. State gas taxes range from a high of 62.47 cents per gallon in California to a low of 13.77 cents per gallon in Alaska. The revenue goes into the Highway Trust Fund and pays for most of the government’s highway and mass transit spending.

Nonetheless, if the dynamic addressed by Buttigieg sounds familiar, it’s because increased taxes on cigarette smoking ultimately precipitated declines in smoking — and the revenue such taxes were supposed to generate. Thus, Buttigieg is on firm ground when he assumes greater electrification of vehicles will lead to declining gas tax revenues.

And that goes double if Americans are forbidden to drive fossil fuel-powered vehicles, period. Wholly irrespective of reality, many progressives believe technological progress can simply be mandated into existence by a specific date. Moreover, they’re willing to ignore the uncomfortable reality that mass production of electric vehicles may produce an ecological “cure” worse than the disease it is supposed to eradicate.

In short, “going green” may simply be imposed by hammering Americans into submission. Automotive expert Eric Peters warns that “by 2030 not much else that isn’t electric will be built,” and the few cars that aren’t “will have been driven off the roads entirely by regulatory fiat and extortionate/punitive gas and registration fees” by 2040.

Weirdly, a Buttigieg spokesman later walked the gas tax statement back, telling reporters a “variety of options need to be on the table to ensure we can invest in our highways and create jobs, but increasing the gas tax is not among them.”

So what’s the other alternative? Buttigieg is toying with the idea of taxing Americans for the number of miles they drive. “A lot has been suggested recently about the idea of vehicle-miles-traveled-based, so if we’re committed to the idea of user-pays, then part of how you might do that would be based on vehicle miles traveled [VMT],” he said. “But that raises, of course, concerns about privacy and there remains some technological questions too. These are examples of some of the things that could be part of the solution, but I know that’s going to have to be a conversation, not only in the administration, but with Congress too.”

Columnist Nicholas Ballasy explains what a VMT system is really all about: “To implement a VMT system, the federal government would likely have to establish a uniform in-car system for tracking the number of miles a driver travels similar to the EZ-Pass transponder that drivers put in their vehicles to pay tolls.”

In other words, under the auspices of “going green,” government would gain the power to track every vehicle in the nation in real time. And if Americans believe the data collected will be used solely to determine miles driven, they are incredibly naive. Data from electronic toll-collection systems have already been used in divorce and child-custody cases, and police have used data from car computers to solve crimes. Another layer of surveillance would be just the ticket for a Biden administration, a Democrat-controlled Congress, and an American Left in general with a demonstrated appetite for defining those who fail to fully embrace progressive dogma as “problematic” — at best — and potential domestic terrorists at worst.

Whatever revenues are generated, they are being touted as one of the streams used to fund the Biden administration’s $1 trillion infrastructure plan. Yet one suspects that, much like the Obama administration’s self-admitted sham known as the “shovel-ready” stimulus package, the funds generated here will be used to bail out blue-state budget profligacy, even in areas wholly unrelated to infrastructure.

The big picture? Under the banner of “zero emissions,” by a fixed date, wholly irrespective of whether or not viable alternatives exist, Americans should be prepared to endure all the costly permutations associated with the Democrats’ determination to wean the nation off fossil fuels. Via executive orders, Biden has already placed a 60-day moratorium on new oil and gas leases on public lands that will likely become permanent, reversed the rollbacks on vehicle emissions standards, canceled the Keystone pipeline project, and reestablished a working group to calculate the “social costs” associated with greenhouse gasses.

Maybe it would be a better idea to calculate the job losses such policies will engender. Canceling Keystone eliminated 11,000 jobs directly and as many as 60,000 more indirectly. If the moratorium on oil and gas leases becomes permanent, another one million jobs will be vaporized.

And it all comes courtesy of an administration whose campaign slogan was “Build Back Better.”

Reality check: “We’ve got guys that haven’t worked in months, and in some cases years, and to have a project of this magnitude canceled, it’s going to hurt a lot of people, a lot of families, a lot of communities,” stated welding foreman Neal Crabtree, in reference to Keystone’s cancellation.

Buttigieg insists people like Crabtree will “continue to be employed in good-paying union jobs, even if they might be different ones.”

And climate czar John Kerry says these folks can “go to work to make the solar panels.”

Crabtree wasn’t buying it. “I don’t consider this a job, I consider it a career,” he said in response. “You spend a lifetime fine-tuning your skills and if you go start another job you’re starting at the bottom. I doubt that these politicians would like it if someone told them to go start over and find a different job.”

In reality, members of our political class don’t give a damn. As far as they’re concerned, everyone laid off as a result of their environmental extremism can “learn to code.”

Higher gas and energy prices? Suck it up to save the planet — serfs.

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