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Obama: Pay As You Drive, Instead of Gas Tax?

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T. Boone Pickens with President Barack Obama

T. Boone Pickens with President Barack Obama

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Would we be better off doing away with the federal gas tax, replacing it entirely, or in part, by a pay-per-mile system?

The federal government appears to be in the early stages of finding out. An early draft of the transportation authorization bill from the Obama administration, circulated this week, would require the study and implementation of a plan that would tax motorists based on how far they drive, not on how much fuel they use.

Wouldn't track where you are—just how far you go

The road-tax proposal follows up on a report from the Congressional Budget Office, which in March suggested that electronic equipment—odometer-based, and not necessarily GPS-based—could be used to determine how many miles were driven, then motorists could pay at fuel stations (or perhaps charging stations for EVs).

In the draft—including more provisions for high-speed rail, bicycle and pedestrian paths, and building livability considerations—the administration cites the need to establish a Surface Transportation Revenue Alternatives Office. The office would be part of the Federal Highway Administration, and would "increase public awareness regarding the need for an alternative funding source for surface transportation programs and provide information on possible approaches."

The White House emphasized in a statement that the draft wasn't formally circulated and doesn't necessarily represent the views of the president or the solution that's formally supported by the administration.

Higher-mpg cars, EVs could pinch highway funds

The plan would probably yield more highway funds and would be a more stable answer to concerns that, as consumers move to more fuel-efficient vehicles (and, perhaps, electric cars), available highway funds will become progressively tighter. Raising the current federal 18.4-cent-per-gallon gas tax would be a political non-starter, so a new pay-per-mile method appears to be one scenario that would keep the highway funds flowing.

There are a number of arguments against a pay-per-mile system, however; one is that those heavier, less fuel-efficient vehicles would then pay just as much as those with lighter vehicles—even though the heavier ones would put more wear on the roadways.

Do you think that a pay-per-mile system could work? If you paid your fuel taxes based on miles driven, not by gallons, would it at all affect your vehicle choice? Let us know what you think.


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Comments (22)
  1. I assume those taxes would be relatively low, so I wouldn't mind either way. They're running out of money, so they have to get it from somewhere. Alternatively, they could replenish the funds with some the money we spend on rebuilding Iraqi and Afghani infrastructure, Round Up missions on coca plants in Colombia, or maybe use some savings from closing half of our military bases overseas (we'd still have over 100 left :-)) I think it's time and it's safe to bring our boys from Germany and Japan now... Anyway, I'm getting my LEAF no matter what.

  2. I dont like the idea of taxing by driven miles, I think charging a yearly fee on electric cars is a good idea to cover them.

  3. The tax should be by vehicle weight x distance driven, since heavier vehicles hurt the roads more and necessitate more repairs.

  4. If this is going to be implemented it should be in newer cars only. People who have older models would be paying twice as much as people driving electric cars and would make the economy worse.
    In this economy ever cent that us poor folks make is crucial... lets not forget that.

  5. This is a terrible idea. It is going to hurt the economy as people who are already financially struggling will simply drive less. They will limit trips,,movies,vacations,etc., resulting in less spending. It also "punishes" people in areas that do not have mass transit systems in place. Many of thestates, such as Oklahoma, do not have adequate transportation systems and drivers must drive everywhere.People in areas such as LA & NYC won't be subject to this tax, or very little of it. I've also yet to see anything about how this will affect trucking companies that deliver goods &products around the nation.Will they also be taxed in some way for miles driven and will that cost then be passed onto the consumers, affecting the economy?

  6. Another terrible idea from this administration!

  7. This plan doesn't make any sense. Besides the possible privacy and big brother issues, it would require an entirely new infrastructure and cost a fortune to put in place. It would end up being technology based, which means that is will be easy to manipulate or cheat. Plus, it will no doubt open up plenty of loopholes for the rich/savvy to avoid being taxed. I can only guess that they will use this as a scary alternative to justify raising the gas taxes.

  8. I'd have to see the details to make a decision, but it can't be a straight tax because it would level the cost between small cars and large cars. The President has been pushing for higher fuel economy vehicles and HEV/BEV vehicles, so there would have to be a provision that takes into account the fuel economy of the vehicle. The current federal tax does penalize or reward you based upon the efficiency of the vehicle because the fewer gallons you use the less you pay. I don't like the idea of an electronic device provided by the government put on my car; even if they say it won't have GPS capability.

  9. I think taxes on gas should be increased thus encouraging people to get more fuel efficient vehicles and have less impact on both the environment and the roads. Commercial vehicles- busses, trucks (not in private use) should be exempt from these increases

  10. This is a horrible idea. First this administration wants us to drive on more efficient cars. Now they restrict us on driving. What about CUT spending??

  11. Asinine idea. You must buy gas in order to drive so all this does is enable the Feds to track your driving and intrude even more into your life, plus add who knows how many additional layers of bureaucracy to the bloated Govt.

  12. QUICK THOUGHTS: Based on arugments for per mile tax, one *part* of our current problem is that the gas tax is largley a per gallon tax, more conservation equals less revenue for infrastructure maintenance. If all taxes were percentage at least the gas tax would have a *CHANCE* to keep up with road repair needs. Electric Vehicles, since new should be mandated to pay a per mile tax since these vehicles are newer and can more easily absorb the cost of systems (as % of purchase price) to track and report miles. This would allow those few folks who have some classic VW Beetles or Muscle cars to keep them more "original".

  13. Maybe we should tax Obama for all the miles he, his family, his cabinet, and the rest of his administration travels at taxpayer expense! Why should they all ride for free?

  14. Take that Hybrid drivers. I am sure the ones that think this is a horrible idea are the ones driving around in Prius's.

  15. Licence plate renewal in Ontario, Canada requires you report your mileage. It's only a matter of time before the Canadian government levies a "distance surcharge".

  16. I drive approximately five thousand miles a year, but it isn't the Fed's I am concerned with. Communist California's fuel taxes are, from what I understand, the highest in the nation. It wouldn't make much difference here because these "Lowlife Commie Politicians", would only add the percentage of Federal Fuel Taxes back into the California price of gas. This state is broke, thanks to the politicians and the people who put these creeps into office. Our taxes related to the fuel tax is supposed to be used for road repair and maintenance, right? Check out the 5 freeway in Santa Clarita, California.

  17. Quit whining. Taxes are necessary. Our roads were built with tax dollars our parents gladly paid. Roads should be maintained with a tax on distance driven x mass of vehicle. Get rid of all the subsidies for green energy and just tax pollution emissions including CO2. These two separate taxes would allow anyone to drive whatever car however much they want, but they would pay proportionally for how much they beat up the roads and how much they pollute the air.

  18. I say the best tax would be the "FAT TAX"!

  19. This is the stupidist idea I have heard. The answer IS to raise the gas tax, which will drive people towards more fuel efficient vehicles. That will achieve the important goal of using less gasoline. Then divert money to high speed rail, so long distance trucking and passenger car travel will decrease.

  20. It may sound good but it in America we drive a lot and it would turn into a complicated mess to implement. I imagine most people would disconnect or alter their odometer or whatever they use to measure driving distance. If Electric Vehicles start really making a difference Just eliminate existing taxes and give the responsibilities of roads the their respective City and State to tax the best way that fits their lifestyle. Weight, License, Vehicle type, Power/fuel used.

  21. I just say we get rid of obama..what a cornhole..

  22. I would think the high price of gasoline is payment enough (you're welcome Exxon/Mobile). This sounds like a way to get at hybrid and EV drivers who simply aren't contributing enough to the destruction of our environment. I like the bike path idea. In Maryland cyclists ride at their own risk.

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