Petrol Defies the Dirges

It’s been said for a few years now that gasoline sales in the U.S. would retreat as better mileage standards applied to combustion-engine vehicles and hybrids and EVs steadily took their place anyway. This has been a frequent rationale for increasing the fuel excise taxes that federal, state and local governments apply on petrol: They need a higher rate to compensate for less gas sold per motorist in order to maintain the roads. Well, for probably multiple reasons, we’re buying more gas, not less, as this item from Eno Transportation Weekly notes, citing tax receipts for fiscal 2022. Although recent spikes in gasoline prices may counter this rise in a subsequent measure, it’s clear that the rhetorical dirges we hear for the gas engine are premature. If anything, the pandemic and its aftermath seem to have spurred more driving–and frequently driving at a high (even reckless) speed, which sucks up more petrol. Despite the intense unpopularity of higher pump prices, it’s probably going to take a steady stream of those hikes to alter this trend, at least until left-leaning jurisdictions actually try banning fossil-fuel vehicle sales. Higher taxes (instead of the reductions recently put in place by some fearful politicians) could contribute to bending the curve. And more road use could be priced, ideally based on congestion. Finally, more pervasive fining of flagrantly fast drivers would either deter their behavior or raise the cost to them, either way discouraging as many fill-ups. Otherwise, we’d better hope that today’s “filling stations” stay in business, or the lines at the pump are likely to get longer.

Published by timwferguson

Longtime writer-editor, focusing on topics of business and policy, global and local.

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