World Energy Blog

Oregon the first to implement a "SMART" tax on cars

7/3/2015 9:25:09 AM

The age of the "SMART" Tax, brought to you by higher CAFÉ standards, electric cars and smart meters.
One thing is certain, well make that two things, death and taxes.  No matter what happens you can rest assured that at the end of this life there will be the unavoidable conclusion, and all along the journey the government will be collecting its share of your pie.  So on the one hand our federal government has been pushing conservation, drive less, heat or air condition your home less, use less energy, while on the other hand they have been trying to figure out how to get more of your money while you do it.

Every time we head to the pump to fill our cars with gasoline a percentage of the sale goes to taxes, somewhere between 15 and 30% depending on which state you are in.  Those taxes are supposed to be used for road infrastructure and mobility.  However, with improving gas mileage and the advent of electric cars and natural gas powered mas transit this ever-increasing tax has remained flat.

For quite a while the alternative car dealers have touted the cost savings of driving one of their vehicles as an incentive.  On the east coast special privileges like being able to drive in the car pool lane are part of the charm in owning a hybrid. However, the cost of the hybrid technology is significant and even with the higher mileage and perks the cost of ownership is still much higher than owning a traditional gasoline powered vehicle.

Now enter the ultimate paradox, if you pay less at the pump you pay less in road taxes and get to drive further.  Oh the horror, you aren’t paying your fair share.  No worries the government to the rescue.  

Introducing the “SMART” tax.

In an age when the federal government can listen into our conversations, track our phones and monitor all of our emails this should not be surprising.  The idea is simple, we will monitor where everyone goes and send them a tax bill accordingly.  This will only require a GPS chip in every car and a mandatory submission by the populous to pay an additional tax.

While this may sound extraordinary, the State of Oregon just implemented the program.  OreGO is currently in test mode on the streets of Oregon, hybrids beware; you are about to be taxed into being even more expensive.  The program as introduced is capped at 5,000 users and will charge 1.5-cent tax per mile.  The idea is, the more you drive the more you pay.  Information provided by ODOT says this tax is meant to replace the gasoline gallon tax, but I have never seen a tax actually go away so we should look at this as supplemental.

Of course this is not really a new idea, if you have been watching the “Flow” insurance commercials they have been touting tracking devices to lower your insurance costs for months.  However, that program would be private and presumably you would get the benefits.  Recently I added my two 16-year-old daughters to my insurance policy and was offered the service.  

The “SMART” taxation of America is rapidly becoming a reality.  I don’t know how many have noticed that “Smart” meters appearing in the neighborhood but they provide a similar opportunity for the power companies as well.  How long before we have them turning our thermostats down for us when they “need” the power.

While some would say this all represents progress, and in a way they are correct.  Being able to drive further on a tank of gasoline is a good thing, just as being able to monitor my home from the office is a good thing.  However, as the government becomes more comfortable with “SMART” taxes where might they appear next?

Before you scoff and tell me I’m insane, lets look at my teen-age daughters again.  Part of the selling tactics deployed by insurance agent we directly targeted at control, not cost savings.  For instance, I would be able to tell if my girls were going directly to school or stopping by the donut shop on the way.  I would be able to set alarms that would notify me when they are driving too fast or if they miss a stop sign.  After school, if they decide to skip practice and go to a fast food restaurant I’d be in the loop.

This brings up some very disturbing trends that could become reality very quickly.  For instance if the government doesn’t want me driving a certain route to work they could tax it more.  If the Health Insurance Company or Michele Obama don’t want my kids eating donuts on the way to school they could charge me more.   How long before “SMART” taxes invade even more sensitive areas.  

Has anyone noticed the number of “SMART” bracelets appearing on people’s wrists to measure steps, heart rates, etc?  I’m not saying that this could evolve into a “step” tax…but just saying.