Ahh, summer. Time again for whining about gas prices.
I was surprised to see the sentiment expressed in a chaotic official editorial by The Acorn itself. One would hope the newspaper might bother to leaven its work with a few facts and context. Unfortunately, no.
Let’s start with the fiction of high gas prices. Gas prices today, even with taxes, aren’t at their highest level in absolute terms, let alone when adjusted for inflation.
In absolute dollars, U.S. gas prices hit their peak in 2012 at $3.62 for regular. That’s over 70 cents more expensive than today.
California prices, while more expensive as noted, have moved along with the national prices. Even with new gas taxes, these are not the highest prices we’ve paid at the pump.
The prices drive us crazy because we don’t understand their complicated movements and we fixate on what we do know— taxes. So let’s look at taxes.
California has one of the highest gas taxes in the country but the number one spot belongs to Pennsylvania. So, does Pennsylvania have the most expensive gasoline? Nope. Pennsylvania gas prices are just over the national average of about $3 per gallon.
Let’s talk about taxes a bit more. Where do taxes really drive higher prices? Europe. Europeans pay enormous taxes on their gas and have some of the highest fuel prices in the world. Germany pays almost $7 per gallon and more than half of that is taxes. Finland pays about $8 per gallon.
Of course, their transportation infrastructures are something returning tourists rave about.
Most of our higher fuel costs seem to come from our specially formulated, clean-burning gasoline and the few refineries that produce it. That fuel has helped vastly improve air quality over the span of my adult life, despite the population almost doubling and an even greater increase in the number of vehicles.
We need the improvements to transportation infrastructure made possible by these gas taxes. One way or another, we have to pay for what we want. If not the gas tax, then what?