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The Hidden, Very Good Reason for the $10 Oil Tax


The Hidden, Very Good Reason for the $10 Oil Tax

Arun Gupta

Going for broke with his final budget, President Obama recently proposed a $10-a-barrel tax on oil to fund a $32 billion annual investment in low-emission vehicles, public transit, and urban planning. It’s a bold proposal that could steer the economy toward a low-carbon future and revives the idea of a carbon tax that Obama proposed upon first taking office in 2009.


Arun Gupta:
"Treating energy as a public good would complement treasuring the Earth itself—the atmosphere, hydrosphere, and biosphere—as a global commons that everyone has a right to, rather than something for corporations to loot freely."

"atmosphere, hydrosphere, and biosphere..." That's air, water, and life to be understood as commons.

i'd add the lithosphere to the commons, including not just minerals, but land itself as something that cannot be privatized. Going back to the roots of privatization and colonialism. We need a truly radical, to the root, restructuring of human society and political economy.


The fossil fuel industry receives a lot of criticism these days, and rightfully so. But in the final analysis, we are the ones who support the energy industry and it is our standard of living that will need to change. So contemplate what you can do for the cause

. Reorganize cities, building taller residences with a smaller footprint (the end of suburbia); institute a carbon tax; end our love affair with the automobile— promote car pooling subsidize and expand mass transit, walk and bike more; expand bike paths;, and have shareable (zip) cars, ban gasahol; turn off the air conditioner in the summer and dial the thermostat down in winter; rein in the militaries for defense only and outlaw war; ban night baseball; ban electric outdoor signs; shift from long distance truck to rail transport; ride more trains and buses, fewer planes; promote conference calls and web cams; promote zero population growth with free condoms and family planning world-wide; many more people would become vegetarians or vegans; phase out the cattle industry; discontinue bottled water and refill plstic bottles with tap water; discontinue aluminum cans with and without carbonation; maximize reusable bags and products; minimize or ban disposables (Pampers, Ikea furniture); limit endless gadgets; end yearly auto model changes; limit all the advertising, junk mail, most retail, etc.; eliminate “fast junk food”; go to “slow food”; replace “fast fashion” with “slow fashion”; bring back mending, alterations and local tailors; completely redesign production of appliances, electronics, house wares, furniture, etc to be as durable and long-lived as possible; bring back appliance repairmen and such; design and build smaller housing to last for centuries and to be as energy efficient as possible, to be reconfigurable, and shareable; recycle maximally, especially aluminum cans; maximize solar and wind power; drive and accelerate more slowly; change from petroleum based fertilizers to regenerative agriculture; reverse deforestation, plant more trees; climb more stairs; restrict spray cans; eat and farm organic; use manual tools instead of power tools, use rakes rather than leaf blowers; push rather than power small mowers; replace lawns with vegetable gardens; compost as much as possible; more stairs, fewer elevators; promote subsidies for renewal energy, eliminate approximately 50% of all street lighting and office lighting in unoccupied buildings, motion lighting, where appropriate, and high efficiency LED and solar powered lighting; ;at person out of the room turn off the lights. Stop fertilizing and mowing lawns


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A lengthy list worth listing, though I dispute a few items on it.
We really should take the idea the inevitable further. Right now < 5% of the American population works in agriculture. Under the list of societal changes that ruckndl has honored us by raising, we will have to see a large shift from urban population to rural population. A larger % of our population will have to work raising food. Farms will have to be split, with a new typical size of 80 or 160 acres. We will have a smaller, more local and more seasonal selection of food in the grocery store.
-- The character of 'fast food' will change, not be eliminated. Hopefully an end to nationwide chains. Hopefully more food that is cooked in a wok in a way that uses less fuel to cook it. And it would be appropriate to catch, cook and eat more of the rats and pigeons that plague so many of our larger cities.
... and so on.


Simple goals of Arun Gupta's run up against cross currents of other people's goals.
Europe has long had such goals, for a different reason. Most European nations have a history as importers of oil, and have wanted to suppress private 'free' use of products like gasoline. Why is diesel so popular in Europe? Very likely because European governments carved out a lower tax-regime for diesel fuel so that commerce and retail can more affordably move their products from warehouse to outlet. And everyone wants to buy the cheaper fuel.
Credit Pres. Obama and his constituencies with this fundamental transformation: Bush and Cheney were the epitome of trying to please the American consumer by keeping energy prices low. Obama has set government policy that Americans are going to have to seek happiness despite public policy to force energy costs higher and use of energy down, much lower.