Boilin’ That Frog

Now that gas prices are falling it would be a good time to slap on a modest tax.

There’s no way that will happen because 1) Americans have lost the connection between civilization and taxes — the latter pays for the former — 2) Americans think taxes are bad, and 3) What’s the need? Gas prices are going down, baby! We’re burning gas in cars now and forever!

This is welcome news for America’s car-dependent masses: Gas could drop as low as $3.25 and maybe even lower this summer.

So this situation gives us the opportunity to see the classic metaphor of the boiling frog in action. Remember when gas hit $1.00 per gallon for the first time? Wow. Did that seem painful? Then $2.00. Now $3.00. Here’s the thing: Gas really never goes down. It stair-steps upward. And at each plateau we gasp and then take two steps up and one step back. It won’t be long before $3.00 seems absolutely cheap.

Will anything make that frog jump?

Sadly, I doubt it. Peak oil is going to overwhelm us because 1) politicians won’t tell us the truth. and 2) most of our fellow Americans don’t want to hear the truth. Politicians want to get elected, and people want to sustain an unsustainable lifestyle. This situation will continue until we reach a real crisis.

It’ll be sad to watch all the boiling frogs.

What’s the price of gas in Springfield today? I have no clue :-)

Comments 11

  1. Keith R. wrote:

    Nice analogy, especially since it is prehistoric “frogs” that we are burning in our SUVs, which is leading to the global climate changes that are boiling our collective frogs… :-)

    Posted 21 Jun 2011 at 9:47 am
  2. Andy Cline wrote:

    Keith… :-)

    Posted 21 Jun 2011 at 10:07 am
  3. Khal Spencer wrote:

    Yep. Distressing, isn’t it?

    The whole discussion is especially discouraging right now because the Republican Party, with a few brave exceptional individuals, has made “belief” in human-forced climate change into the third rail as far as advancement among the party faithful and has used it as a political wedge issue. Its un-American, will destroy our high standard of living, its socialistic, etc., etc…..

    But of course, our high standard of living has been built on cheap, abundant fossil fuels in an age prior to us understanding both their ultimate limits and their combustion’s ultimate effect on the ocean-atmosphere-land coupled climate system. Hmmm….

    Its not about belief, mind you, but once the right wing and the fossil fuel industry casts the discussion as a “belief” then it can be discussed as religion rather than science. Any right-wing hack can become a “priest”. Nice rhetorical device. Andy should comment, as I am a lay person when it comes to rhetoric. Even though my wife used to teach it…

    Study of anthropogenic contributions to climate change is all about doing good science, making good measurements, putting increasingly tighter constraints on the relationship between industrial emissions, atmospheric chemistry, ocean chemistry, and climate change, and hedging our bets on how to manage our future. Mindlessly mining and burning fossil fuels is not a good idea. Especially if six billion people start emulating Americans.

    Sure, climate has changed dramatically in the geologic past for reasons having nothing to do with humans. But would we want to, or be able to live there? Esp. if our coastlines are under water and all our farming belts move somewhere else? This isn’t about fighting nature, which is how some have re-cast the argument in order to shed responsibility for human actions. Its about managing change and not instigating change that is beyond our ability with which to cope.

    God…I’m babbling. Sorry.

    Posted 21 Jun 2011 at 1:45 pm
  4. Khal Spencer wrote:

    errata: “…with the exception of a few brave and exceptional individuals…”

    Posted 21 Jun 2011 at 1:46 pm
  5. Andy Cline wrote:

    Khal… Babbling is fine as long as it’s entertaining and on point ;-)

    Posted 21 Jun 2011 at 2:01 pm
  6. Khal Spencer wrote:

    BTW, I don’t let the Left off the hook either (and want to say this before Steve A jumps in). There is more than enough “religion” on this topic to go around, sad to say. My personal preference is to err on the side of caution. Its tough to hit the brakes once you have gotten sideways on the hairpin turn.

    Posted 21 Jun 2011 at 2:16 pm
  7. Steve A wrote:

    There are a couple of problems with what Andy proposes. First, without some offsetting tax decrease, it raises the total “tax temperature” all of us frogs endure – even those of us that don’t drive depend on shippers that consume oil.. My income tax bill alone for 2010 was larger than my total income the first two years out of college. The second problem is that MOST people see the gas tax as a “user fee” and not just another source of government revenue, just as are SSAN and Medicare taxes.

    Other than both of those, raising the gas tax would depress usage which would buy us time to figure out what we do when the oil runs out.

    Posted 21 Jun 2011 at 4:52 pm
  8. Khal Spencer wrote:

    My tax bill is likewise bigger than my first whole paycheck out of college. I consider that a sign that I’m doing something right.

    Americans have to come to grips with how much government we want, and hence how we will pay for it. I think we are better off paying taxes than borrowing on T-bills and worrying about the outcome later. It is possible to make a gas tax hike tax-neuteral, I suppose, but for all the hidden transportation costs that would go up.

    Posted 21 Jun 2011 at 5:15 pm
  9. Chandra wrote:

    Andy,
    I like your explanation of the “reduction” in gas price. The cheapest gas price I can remember is 98c, back in MO. That’s a while ago!

    Khal: Can you please explain how to make a gast tax hike tax-neutral? I simply do not know. Thanks in advance!

    Peace :)

    Posted 21 Jun 2011 at 9:53 pm
  10. Khal Spencer wrote:

    If one looks at the inflation-adjusted price of gas, today’s prices are not outlandish.

    To be in some way tax-neutral, one would have to design a way to tax gas more but reduce other taxes. Basically, treat it as a sin tax. One could get a tax credit for the taxes paid on gasoline to apply as a rebate on income tax, at least up to a cutoff point (it would make no national security or environmental sense to make driving a gas guzzler tax-neutral).

    Posted 21 Jun 2011 at 10:05 pm
  11. Chandra wrote:

    Thanks, Khal. They should make it a crime to drive a gas-guzzler, unnecessarily. I understand that sometimes one may have to drive a gas-guzzler to haul cargo and such.

    Peace :)

    Posted 22 Jun 2011 at 10:57 pm