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Day April 26, 2008

“Gas Tax Holiday”: Clinton is going backwards on Climate Change Policy

Update #1: The NYT covered this story on Tuesday (a few days after BMG dug into it).

Update #2: Economists pan the “Gas Tax Holiday”, conclude “Score one for Obama” for being on the right side of the issue.

Update #3: A nice op-ed by Friedman in the NYT today (Wednesday) agreeing with many of the sentiments here. Here’s a nice quote:

…the true American energy policy today: “Maximize demand, minimize supply and buy the rest from the people who hate us the most.

Update #4: NYT Editorial on Thursday.

Original Post:

Hillary Clinton recently argued for the suspension of the federal gasoline tax.  A Clinton ad airing in Indiana says the following:

Hillary Clinton knows it’s time to act, take some of the windfall profits of big oil to pay to suspend the gas tax this summer, investigate the oil giants for price gouging and collusion

This is basically agreeing with McCain’s similar plan just a few weeks ago, calling for a gas tax holiday from Memorial Day to Labor Day.  

Putting aside any kneejerk response to parroting the McCain campaign, this is bad climate change policy to the core.  It is true gasoline costs are rising due to a variety of reasons including (continuing) Middle East regional instability, increased demand from China and India, and of course pathetic US efforts to conserve gasoline usage.  Yet no candidate who wants to honestly claim to be a future leader in turning back the tides of climate change could offer a “Gas Tax Holiday”.  

Regardless of which candidate one supports, if we earnestly want to stave off climate change, then  Clinton needs to be called out on being on the wrong side of this issue. In contrast, Obama has come out against the “Gas Tax Holiday”, and stated:

The only way we’re going to lower gas prices over the long term is if we start using less oil.

more on the flip side

cross post: elemental cycles

Poll – are YOU civic engaged – or NOT?

Do YOU know who your representative is in the State House?  Do you know who your state senator is?

Have you contacted your representative this month?  This year?

Have you contacted your state senator this month?  This year?

Do you know who your congressman or woman is?

Have you attended a political event?

We are *so* dense.

You know, we're pretty good at bringing people together in the Boston area … particularly as compared to Atlanta: A 2003 World Bank study comparing various cities in the United States illustrated the dramatic difference a bit of sprawl can make. Boston, for instance, isn't the most compact city around, but if its population was as spread out as, say, Atlanta's, then Bostonians would be driving about 9 percent more, kicking up a lot more carbon into the air. If Boston had Atlanta's inferior rail system, driving would increase another 5 percent. In fact, if you could somehow wave a magic wand and move the entire population of Boston to a city with all of Atlanta's sprawl-like characteristics, total driving would increase 25 percent. Wow. (via Matt) I'm finding that being an ex-Red Line regular living in Medford, I really detest driving around here. But at least I'm not stuck in Atlanta or DC traffic. BTW, a side effect of improved public transport is that driving sucks less, since there are fewer people on the road. Anyway, for a place that's so old, it looks like we're the future.

Time for Criminal Sentencing Reform

The Boston Globe was kind enough to publish an op ed piece by me this morning, Fixing our criminal sentencing system. I hope that we can keep discussion focused on sentencing reform at the State House this term. Everything BMG folks could do to urge reforms in mandatory sentencing, school zone drug policies, drug policy in general, improved parole opportunities, and better programs for drug treatment (instead of prison) would be of great benefit to the Commonwealth.

Sciortino has an opponent

http://somervillenews.typepad…. His opponent is saying that he is running because Carl is an “elitist” A new trend? Disclosure: I’m a Sciortino supporter, and plan to work on his campaign

Mass Pike: Nation’s Longest Speed Trap?

Today’s Boston Herald has a story that claims the Mass Pike is aggressively ticketing speeders to generate revenue.   The Massachusetts Turnpike has turned into the nation’s longest speed trap as state troopers, freed from their Big Dig duties, are gunning for harried commuters and writing tickets at a rate of an additional 4,000 a year, a Herald review shows. “It’s unfair for Metro West commuters to pay higher tolls and be targeted like this,” said state Rep. Tom Sannicandro (D-Ashland). “People shouldn’t be speeding, but I think the Pike is looking at this as a revenue enhancer, and that’s a problem,” Sannicandro said. more here Here’s the policy question.  Massachusetts cities and towns do not keep the revenue generated by speeding tickets in their municipalities.  This is deliberate, as this eliminates the incentive for municipalities to become “speed trap towns” to generate revenue.  So why not solve the whole Mass Pike problem by depositing turnpike speeding funds into the general fund?

Million dollar error in judgement

According to today’s Boston Globe the state paid almost $1 million to examine the structural integrity of the Longfellow Bridge. After paying all this money to an outside expert, the Jacobs Engineering Group, the state is denying the results, saying their report overstates the dangers of deterioration. Ummmm, so we supposedly hired an independent firm to give us their professional opinion and then, after paying them $1 million decide that they don’t know what their opinion is wrong? So here is the next million-dollar question: Does the state now have a policy never to hire this firm again because we don’t trust their judgement or are we going to continue using them, pay them more money, and deny the results again?