Sunday, November 29, 2009

WSJ likes Dutch toll proposal

In a recent article, the Wall Street Journal praises a Dutch proposal to use GPS systems in all cars in order to collect road taxes based both on distances traveled and times of use.

I cannot understand this thinking. The WSJ completely fails to mention that such a system would not only make the use of roads in the Netherlands very cheap for foreigners, who would not have such systems in their vehicles. In addition, some part of the state would know exactly when and where you are driving at all times.

Strangely, Germany comes in for some criticism. The WSJ links to Deutsche Welle, which writes:

Compared with the Dutch system, Dudenhoeffer said, Germany's car taxes are "a monster." They fail to "steer" policy, they are too complicated, and they don't take actual road usage into account, he noted.

"You pay the same in taxes for a car that drives 100 kilometers per year as you do for the same car that drives 100,000 kilometers," Dudenhoeffer said.

Total nonsense -- Dudenhoeffer is only referring to the fee for license plates, which are indeed based on the size and type of the engine, not on the number of kilometers driven. But Germany has a very successful ecotax system that has raised the price of gasoline, very successfully steering road use. Sales of small cars rose as this tax was incrementally added, and more people switched to public transport. The one thing that this ecotax does not do is limit congestion during rush hour, but I would have thought that the traffic jams themselves would be a deterrent to those who have a choice.

This GPS stuff is going to be quite costly. I doubt you will be able to install such systems for less than 50 dollars a vehicle. In contrast, simply raising the price of gasoline costs zero cents per vehicle, and it penalizes according to distance traveled and engine size, which the GPS project does not automatically do (they are tweaking the system to accommodate for gas guzzlers).

Overall, it seems like the Dutch have latched onto some technological fix for a problem that could be solved quite simply through higher gas prices. And because Americans do not understand how sensible and straightforward gas taxes are, they are also mesmerized by this technological fix.

No comments:

Post a Comment