This Guest Opinion is a rebuttal of the April 12 Statesman editorial titled: “Legislators shortchange our roads.”
The editorial advocated an ambitious road improvement program costing about $500 million, instead of the $95 million the Legislature allocated.
The Statesman opined: “earlier this year, when gas cost $1.75/gallon, the Legislature missed a golden opportunity to double the gas tax from 25 cents to 50 cents, a stealth move whose tax tracks would have been covered by pump prices that climbed again in the ensuing weeks.”
Doubling the gas tax, combined with higher vehicle registration fees, would then have closed some of the funding gap the Statesman’s proposed improvements costing $500 million.
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If the Legislature had actually passed the Statesman’s “stealth” proposal, it would probably have hurt senior citizens living on small, fixed incomes, and the hundreds of thousands of single mothers and unemployed or under-employed Idahoans, who already have a lot of trouble making ends meet.
It is easy and self-serving for a corporation (the Statesman) to advocate taxing us, the taxpayers, to pay for deluxe infrastructure improvements that will benefit it and other corporations by facilitating more runaway growth, resulting in a deteriorating quality of life for current residents of Idaho.
Following are some good reasons why we should not spend tons of money on maintaining or improving an infrastructure used by gas-guzzling vehicles and trucks:
1. The interstate highway system, initiated by President Eisenhower during the 1950s, basically created the suburbs and led to gridlock, sprawl and long commutes in most large cities. Definitely not a positive outcome.
2. We should abandon a transportation model based on fossil fuel burning vehicles, which are known to contribute to global warming.
3. In the foreseeable future, when (not if) we run out of oil, or when oil becomes prohibitively expensive, few people will be able to afford to drive cars or trucks, especially for long distances.
Before you dismiss the idea of the world running out of oil as idiotic, consider the following:
• In 1957 the geophysicist M. King Hubbard developed the “peak oil theory,” which states that the amount of oil under the ground in any region is finite and therefore the rate of discovery which initially increases rapidly, must reach a maximum and then decline. Hubbard was proven right after major oil fields near Baku, Russia, and in Texas ran out of oil.
• Thanks to free trade agreements, many people living in formerly poor countries (think India and China) have much higher incomes, approaching the level of American middle class incomes. Now these people drive cars too, and live in homes or apartments that are heated and cooled with fossil fuels. The effect these hordes of newly affluent people will have on the global supplies of oil will be staggering.
• Fossil fuels are used to heat/cool homes and fuel vehicles, but they are also used to make clothes, furniture and plastic packaging for consumer products, shopping bags, etc.
I advocate we stop wasting money on maintaining and improving a deteriorating and outdated transportation system. Instead, I suggest we spend the money on developing a high-speed rail system, similar to what Japan already has, to connect cities in metropolitan areas. Perhaps, we could build the train rails on the freeway medians or even the freeways themselves. Smaller cities and towns could be connected with trains that make frequent stops. Within cities, safety improvements could be made that would encourage people to walk or bicycle instead of using cars. Apart from reducing CO2 emissions, this would improve the health of the 70 percent of Americans who are either overweight or obese.