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Hike the gas tax to clean the Gulf

By Kay Bell ·
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
Posted: 2 pm ET

I vividly remember the first time I saw the ocean. But it really wasn't the ocean. It was the Gulf of Mexico. To a preteen from arid West Texas, though, the Gulf was for all practical purposes "the" ocean.

I've visited the Texas shore since. And I've lived in areas that afforded easy access to coastlines in other states.

Now I must watch helplessly as the worst oil spill in U.S. history threatens or, according to computer-generated Gulf flow predictions, could eventually threaten some of the other beaches I love.

I agree that it's ultimately BP's responsibility to pay for the cleanup. But given the company's apparent ineptitude, I'm not sure I trust it to do the job. I want a little more control, and yes that means I want Uncle Sam to be more involved in the cleanup.

That means, however, there must be money to pay for such beach remediation. And that raises the question of what each of us is willing to pay to restore our shores and wetlands?

Raise the gas tax: A relatively easy way to pay such costs is to hike the federal fuel excise tax. For gasoline, that tax is 18.4 cents a gallon.

This tax was created to help pay for interstate road construction and maintenance. The tax amount hasn't been increased in almost 20 years.

During the last presidential election, some candidates wanted to stop collecting this fee for a while. Of course, pump prices then were near $4 a gallon and, as I said, it was an election year.

Now, however, is a good time to consider hiking the federal fuel excise tax and earmarking the added money to oil spill efforts.

Some drivers will pay much more: Such a suggestion is not going to sit well with motorists in California, where combined local, state and federal gasoline taxes are, as of April data collected by the American Petroleum Institute, 67 cents per gallon.

Hawaiians pay almost as much, 64.5 cents per gallon in fuel taxes. New York's 63.3 cents per gallon of gas is a close third.

But lots of states pay a lot less.

Alaska's gas taxes come to just 26.4 cents per gallon. Wyoming's combined gas taxes are just 32.4 cents per gallon.

Here in the Lone Star State, we pay 38.4 cents per gallon when we fill up our pick-up trucks.

So yes, some folks will pay more. And even if it's not that much, any tax hike is not going to sit well with most folks in just about any state.

But this is a tax whose time has come.

We all talk a good game about energy conservation, but until it costs us, we don't do much about it. Note that fuel-efficient car sales skyrocket when gas prices go up but drop off as soon as what we pay for gasoline is more acceptable.

So maybe by forcing us to pay more for gas, we'll get more drivers into fuel-efficient vehicles and mass transportation habits, as well as come up with the cash to help make sure that our critical shorelines are properly restored.

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June 12, 2010 at 11:33 am

Hey KAY BELL . . .
the Gulf is the ocean . . .
gulf is a descriptive geographical term . . .
so you're a youngster from airhead West Texas
who doesn't pay enough taxes?
seems we all think you're an idiot . . .
oh well . . . the price of youth . . .
we've all been there . . .

June 09, 2010 at 10:42 pm

To "A tax payer" -- it's PORK not PORT. You can't make mistakes like that and try to convince us you're knowledgeable. By the way, the space program is worth it's weight in GOLD vis-a-vis technology we use every day.

June 09, 2010 at 9:53 pm

to "a tax payer" -- First, it's PORK not PORT. I don't know if that was a typo or if you're actually that uninformed. Next, other than reducing staff members of congress, your suggestions are just idiotic. Learn how to look at the big picture.

June 09, 2010 at 8:43 pm

Why should any of us pay for BP's screwup.
They are a multi-billion dollar company that has the money to clean this up. I certainly do not ! If they don't clean this up completely and to our satisfaction then we should completely ban BP from doing any business in this country and freeze all their assets. It is time to hold companies and their management accountable for their actions. If it bothers you sooooo much that your favorite beach may not be available for sunbathing then why don't put your own money where your mouth is and take all of your own assets and give it to the government for the cleanup and let the rest of us decide what we want to do with our own money. Better yet, why don't you pay to feed, cloth and house just one family who has been put out of work or gone bankrupt because of the oil spill. It will probably be one of the most eye opening experiences of your life !

June 09, 2010 at 5:08 pm

I understand the need for the government to be involved in oversight of the cleanup in the Gulf, but as far as financing the cleanup, I believe it should be 100% billed to BP....wait, how about BP pay the whole bill for the cleanup, pay all costs involved in the government's oversight, and then face all affected parties in court who have lost their income or otherwise been adversely affected by this environmental tragedy.

I am tired of the responsibility for paying for big oil or any other multibillion-dollar company's mistakes falling on the backs of the American taxpayer. People are still out of work, and those of us who are still employed aren't getting raises and bonuses anymore because of the state of the economy. I don't need anymore taxes or hidden taxes on my income to cover the stupidity of BP or any other company that actually can and should pay their own way on things like this.

It's a hidden bailout when the taxpayers of the United States get to pay extra out of their own pockets for the mistakes of big business. I don't know if you noticed, but there is a bit of a bad taste in the mouths of most Americans because we bailed out the banks, AIG, the car companies.....all while many Americans were put out of their jobs. For the amount of money that was spent by the government to save those companies, they could have just handed each taxpaying American a million dollars of their own money back and it would have been spent on goods and services.

Let the companies that make their money off of greed and taking shortcuts wherever they can at the expense of the man on the street and the environment pay their own way when they screw things up....just like everyone else.

If I do something stupid in my house and it burns down my house and my neighbor's house, there is no government entity that will come to my rescue. I have homeowner's insurance that will cover it....ooops, I bet BP has an insurance policy that will cover most of their costs for this kind of stuff, too. I bet it's underwritten by please stop asking the American taxpayer to pay for everything. We have children to send to colleges that get more expensive every year and mortgages to pay on houses that aren't worth what they were just 3 years ago.

Sorry, but it irks me when somebody says that we should pay more for gas by taxing it. Don't you understand the ripple effect of that kind of thinking? Everything that is shipped in this country is done so by vehicles that consume some form of fossil fuel. When I pay more for the gas in my car, so do the companies that ship everything we buy in the grocery store and the Wal-Marts and Targets we shop in. So not only do I pay more at the gas pump, but I pay more for EVERYTHING.....all because BP screwed up and people like you think the American taxpayer is a bottomless pit of financial resources. If we were, the government wouldn't be in the financial mess it has created for my great great grandchildren.

Maybe you can pay more for gas...personally, I don't have any more to give.

June 09, 2010 at 2:06 pm

Real bright. Continue to let corporations fail and reward them by having everyone else pay for the cleanup.

June 09, 2010 at 12:50 pm

Are you kidding? You think that we should all have to pay more taxes when a multi-billion dollar company has a accident? What about when the price of oil goes through the roof because of lost oil and no more drilling? Then we will have $6/gallon gas and you want to add more tax on gas? Yikes! you must be a liberal. I am a conservative and as such am against any tax increase for any reason. Our government only knows how to waste money and I refuse to give them any more of mine! -Dave

A tax payer
June 09, 2010 at 12:30 pm

Here we go again... raise taxes.
Instead, lets:
Stop port barrel spending and spending add-ons
Stop the space program
Stop the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan
Stop all the "junkets" of Congress
Reduce all the staff members of Congress
Stop sending money to other countries.. like Israel
Reduce all government personnel

With all of this we would have more than enough to not only clean up the Gulf but reduce all of our taxes by a least a half or more

jc Black
June 09, 2010 at 12:09 pm

IDIOT!!!!!!! Idid not cause the leak? Idon't want to pay for it!
BP makes hundreds of billions of dollars net profet every year. Its there responsibilty. We should be going after every cent they have?

June 09, 2010 at 9:22 am

This may sound altruistic but remember when gas prices hit a certain point in 2008 which has been argued as the impetus for the market crash? Like it or not with unemployment high, lack of confidence in government high and global unrest in the sovereign debt crisis eating at the minds of many people, the last thing you want is to increase taxes for something most Americans don't feel they are at fault for.

While historically in question, I prefer to quote the movie Pearl Harbor with reference to Admiral Yamamoto: "I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant" A new gas tax earmarked specifically for this tragedy i.e. another corporate bailout is not a policy I would want to be known for.