You wouldn’t nominate the boss of a major American auto manufacturer as the likeliest person to suggest the nation consider a huge increase in the federal gas tax.
But General Motors CEO Rich Wagoner told reporters earlier this week that a big gas hike might be good for America as an incentive for consumers to save energy by buying hybrids, electrics and other fuel efficient vehicles.
Wagoner, the GM chief executive, said increasing the gas tax to guarantee a minimum gas sales price of $4 a gallon is “worthy of consideration.”
A quick look at the math. With the federal gas tax frozen at 18.4 cents per gallon and gasoline currently selling around $2 per gallon, the tax would need to jump about $2 per gallon to get to the $4 per gallon level.
That would be a big change. Automakers traditionally have fiercely opposed increases in the gas tax. But maybe Wagoner’s view isn’t so surprising considering that GM is fighting to stay afloat. His predicament is perhaps like that of a big T-rex dinosaur eons ago figuring he has to adapt to climate change before it kills him.
Of course, selling a gas tax to American consumers won’t be easy. A poll of Bay Area residents last year by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission found a lack of support for a gas tax hike in the range of 10 cents per gallon.