Nobody rides for free

Oregon, home of some of our most enthusiastic environmentalists, collects a stiff 30 cents on every gallon of gasoline sold in the state. (The Feds are already taking 18.4.) What’s more, several cities and a couple of counties add a tax of their own.

So far, so good: as they said in Econ 102, you want to discourage something, you slap a tax on it. It’s apparently just dawned on them, though, that pure-electric vehicles, which burn no gasoline at all, will contribute nothing to the kitty, and that simply won’t do:

A bill before the Oregon Legislature aims to deal with the government’s potential beefs with a growing fleet of cars and trucks that never stop for fuel at a gas station: that they don’t ever pay the gas tax that helps cover the cost of state and local road construction and maintenance.

Under House Bill 2328, those drivers would pay a “vehicle road usage charge,” starting with model year 2014 electric vehicles and plug-in gas-electric hybrids.

And how will this charge be determined? There was a pilot program conducted in Oregon several years ago, which was intended to determine whether it might be more useful, or more remunerative, or anyway more something, to drop the gas tax entirely and replace it with a per-mile fee. Not everyone was enthusiastic about having their every trip logged and reported via GPS, it turned out.

So no GPS in the new bill. Instead, someone will have to develop a gizmo that can read your odometer and report the details back to Salem — since they’re sure as hell not going to take your word for it.

(Via The Truth About Cars.)


  1. Dan B »

    3 February 2011 · 10:26 am

    Oregon and New Jersey won’t let you pump your own fuel, so maybe some angle involving not trusting you to plug in your own car might work?

    At this point, none of the electric vehicles are large enough to cause excessive road damage in the range of the fully-loaded 18-wheeler (500-10,000 times the typical passenger car, depending on who you believe), so it’s an issue of ‘fairness’ instead of actually coughing up for road repairs.

    They could always cut legislator pay, after all most of them live off of kickbacks anyway.

  2. McGehee »

    3 February 2011 · 10:35 am

    The old saying goes, “If you want less of something, tax it.”

    It should now be revised: “If you want the government to want more of something it used to want less of, tax it.”

  3. Mel »

    4 February 2011 · 11:43 am

    Once upon a time I had a truck with a Propane kit, which was great when gasoline first hit the $1.50 range and propane was $0.50 per gallon circa Gulf War I.

    While you still had to pay a Fed tax per gallon, Oklahoma did a flat $150 per year tax with accompanying window sticker … a sticker they could read approximately a mile away, as it was roughly the size of a 4 X 6 index card.

    And with an 18 gallon gas tank and 81 gallon propane tank (90% of rated capacity), my range when both were full was, uhm, roughly 1,200 miles.*

    Eat it non-hybrid electric plug-ins.

    * 1982 Chevy truck. Highway mileage … 16 mpg gasoline, about 12 mpg propane.

RSS feed for comments on this post