The title of your editorial (March 17), advocating a higher gasoline tax, was “New Oil Jolt,” but your position on this issue is quite old and just as ineffective as when you supported it almost six years ago. (June 16, 1980).
Back then you questioned whether Congress was serious about moving the United States toward energy independence by refusing to pass a 10-cent-a-gallon gasoline tax over President Carter’s objections. The Carter Administration and The Times argued that higher prices, in the form of increased taxes, on domestic gasoline would cut our dependence on imported oil. Congress and the consumer won the argument; the Carter tax proposal was never passed and energy prices stabilized at relatively high levels even without the added tax.
Despite the high price levels of gasoline and other fossil fuels, the free market victory on the gasoline tax issue in 1980 developed into a U.S. energy picture that looks brighter than it has in decades.
As government regulations and controls were lifted in the gasoline, oil and natural gas markets, domestic producers were given incentives to find more oil and develop alternative energy sources. As the newly discovered oil and newly developed sources have entered the market, overall energy prices have plummeted.
Today, because of those alternative sources, we are not only less dependent on imported oil but our total energy generation is powered less by imported and domestic oil, which unlike the new technologies is nonrenewable.
The federal government should not take away the benefits of a free market in oil and gasoline, especially when, as it is now, so heavily in favor of the consumer.
I hope that Congress is again ready to reject any presidential call for higher gasoline taxes. The motives for such a plan by the Reagan Administration would be no different than those for Carter six years ago, an easy way to make a significant move toward a promised balanced budget without lowering government spending.
Unlike The Times, American consumers will not fall for this government con job, and I’m sure members of Congress will be thinking of that this November before they hit voters with their own “oil jolt” in the form of artificially high gasoline prices.
ANDY M. WEITZ