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.
But lots of states pay a lot less.
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.