The real costs of fossil fuel-powered vehicles – and the alternatives to them
There is some rising concern, and at times vitriol, about electric car drivers not paying their fair share, because they buy no gas, and therefore do not pay gas taxes, which go to maintaining roads. While this is true, it is only a sliver of the bigger picture. The more salient fact is that health and environmental costs from fossil-fuel-burning automobiles, along with subsidies to the fossil fuel industry, are vastly greater than the cost of maintaining roads – and electric car drivers are not contributing to these far greater costs to society, thus saving us enormous sums of money. We should thank them, not scold them and wag our fingers.
In the US each household pays roughly $1,100 a year to subsidize automobile drivers, in the form of subsidies to road construction and maintenance, in addition to gas taxes and tolls. Automobile drivers are heavily subsidized by drivers and non-drivers alike. And this does not even count the health and environmental costs of automobile use, which far exceed the cost of building and maintaining roads.
It also does not count the cost of subsidies to the fossil fuel industry, which the IMF has recently stated are at $5 trillion a year globally – more than all health spending by all governments in the world combined.
These are shocking figures. Our society is deeply, and disastrously, out of balance – clearly. We need clean, renewable mass transit infrastructure now. It is safer, cleaner, does not destroy the air or the planet, and is also far cheaper than an automobile-based transportation system, which is positively Jurassic by comparison.
But, we still live in the stone age with regards to our transportation system, and in many other ways. We had better get it together and make some very big changes soon – as in, now – because currently, we are only driving toward an ecological cataclysm of our own making.
And in the meantime, while we make the transition to a more sane and truly sustainable transportation system for the 21st century, based on electric and solar-hydrogen trains, buses, light rail, taxis, shuttles, ferries, ships and subways, we need to switch immediately to electric and solar hydrogen cars and trucks. To refuse to do so, with all of the evidence now before us, is simply unconscionable, as well as flatly suicidal.
February 24, 2016