USA – Refuse Even to Fund Crumbling Highways

US highways are in a bad shape, one out of nine bridges are “structurally deficient”. Some 40 years after being built, upkeep is getting more expensive while available funding is decreasing. Due to falling mileage and better fuel efficiency of US cars, the 18.4 cents fuel tax per gallon is yielding less and less money. Between 2007 and 2010 the highway trust fund received one-seventh less money. At the same time, nobody seem to be prepared to pay more fuel tax and politicians don’t even dare thinking of it.

On the first sight it may be a surprise that car addicted US Americans are not willing to fund highway maintenance. Maybe it’s an indication of just how absurd their  (always speaking of an average person of course) negative attitude to fund even public goods that they absolutely rely on. Nevertheless, the solution is clear: fuel taxes will have to rise. The US have – compared to their living standard – incredibly low fuel taxes not only causing road hazards because of insufficient maintenance but also triggering huge economic inefficiencies, unsustainable development planing and transportation habits as well as waste and misallocation of resources because of unreasonably low fuel prices. And while these problems are isolated to the US, the resulting sky-high greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) are indeed a global problem. Even the US military has identified dependency on fossil fuel price as a national security problem. Increasing fuel taxes is the easiest way of not only repairing US roads, cutting GHG emissions and inefficiencies but also reducing foreign oil imports.

ON green policy. The problem is identified, the solution is obvious but the understanding of citizens despite huge costs on society and as a consequence the determination of politics to tackle the problem is virtually non-existent. Although it would be nice if somebody would tell voters the truth about the need to increase fuel taxes, it is probably safe to assume that in this situation politicians cannot solve the problem because in the current US political context nobody would politically survive such a suggestion. Nevertheless, it remains a political problem. Maybe one that needs to be tackled from the bottom up. Hopefully a societal consensus emerges before another bridge comes crashing down.

Source: The Economist


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