Monday, July 09, 2012

Would you volunteer to pay more — much more — for gas?

It’s pretty clear that our next president, whoever he might be, isn’t going to do squat about global warming. The oil pipers in Washington DC are going to continue to call their profit-driven, business-as-usual tune of climate change denial.

Hey, so we have a few more forest fires, higher acid levels in our rising oceans and record-breaking heat waves. Mere anomalies, friends. Keep on truckin’!

So here’s an idea for 2012 and beyond to make sure there are more beyonds...beyond beyond....

I just checked on-line and the pump price of a gallon of gas in Europe is now roughly $10. Yes, a fill-up of 12 gallons costs the Sweds, the French, the Italians and other continentals a cool $120.

The European overage is about $6.50/gallon from what we pay. In other words, they pay $78 more each time they fill up.

For a long time New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman and others have advocated a tax that would force us to pay closer to what our European friends pay.

Good luck with that (see above).

But what if those of us not in media-inspired disconnect about global warming and unprecedented “natural disasters” VOLUNTARILY paid the difference between Europe’s price and ours every time we gassed up?

We’d do it on a special “Green” credit card that would do the computation and redirect the difference to....

To whom? The government? I don’t think so. Somehow the money would simply finance more tax subsidies for Exxon Mobil, BP, Shell and agribusiness, more money for drone attacks and more bail-outs for banks “too big to fail” etc.

No, because the Green Credit Card is a voluntary program, we donors get to decide who gets the money. One idea is a blue-ribbon consortium of organizations working on “The Great Planetary Turning” that will save this blue-green pebble in space from being turned into a black cinder.

For now, be patient. We can get to the details of who gets the money later. Your homework is to think about how the consortium should be governed and whether it should be (could be) a tax-exempt non-profit. (Maybe government could help by making the tax exemptions especially attractive, just as long as Washington keeps its mitts — and Mitt — off deciding how our donations are spent.)

Sitting on the back porch with my wife this evening, I dragged out my little calculator and we ran our own numbers. We aren’t particularly big drivers and one of us (me) drives a hybrid. We estimated that together we manage to burn through about 500 gallons of gas a year. That’s probably a conservative estimate, but let’s work with it.

If we use the European benchmark of $10 a gallon (if they can do it so can we), the two of us would voluntarily contribute roughly $3250 a year (500 gallons X $10 = $5000 minus $1750  for the gas itself). That’s $3250 from two Americans contributing to the cause of saving the planet for us and future generations. (Did I mention that we’re slated to be grandparents for the first time next month? A sobering reality...a grandchild entering a world of record heat waves and melting ice caps.)

So is the contribution worth it?

Is it worth it if it’s a tax deduction? Is it worth it if it encourages us to buy more fuel efficient vehicles or use mass transit? Is it worth it if the money helps build high-speed rail, more electric buses and trolleys, more solar generators?

Is it worth it if it catches on and contributes mightily to saving the planet for our grandchild and millions of other grandchildren?

I think so.

What do you think? Would you volunteer?

Addendum: A variation might be to offer cards in different "editions." One might phase in increases in your donation. You pay $5 a total of gallon this year (that might be an "orange" credit card), $6 next (pale orange...on the way to a "cooler" color) etc. Another version starts you at the $10 a gallon maximum but then "rewards" you as you meet goals in lowering your gas consumption. Of course if you go 100 percent electric, you pay nothing to anyone. At which point we might consider the source of your electricity. But that's another story...

HERE's a link to an even more modest approach by fellow Quakers in Berkeley. Every dime helps.

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