Americans are driving less and burning less fuel, but it could be too soon for conservation fans to celebrate. That dip, and global economic gloom, has sent oil and gas prices spiraling down, Joseph White writes in the Wall Street Journal, depriving the government of taxes it needs for transportation infrastructure—and perhaps sapping consumers’ motivation to buy more fuel-efficient vehicles.
President-elect Barack Obama, citing the cycle in which Americans “go from shock to trance,” promises to break the oil addiction for good. The feds must stop “encouraging Americans to burn less fuel, while secretly hoping they drive more,” the Transportation secretary says. But while raising the gasoline tax could improve revenues and encourage conservation, it’s politically untenable.