Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Special tax on fuel in Trondheim

...that's why I haven't heard anything about rush hour fees lately. In order to solve the allegedly hyooge environmental issues regarding exhaust fumes in Trondheim, our politicians in their infinite wisdom plan to introduce a special tax on gasoline and diesel in Trondheim. Now I don't have any numbers to support this, but from personal experience I can assure you that walking down the streets of downtown Trondheim during peak rush hour is a picnic compared to performing the same exercise in either Bergen or Oslo, so I'm not sure what the reasoning behind a special tax in Trondheim is all about. Maybe they figured that people from this region are more docile and less likely to give the politicians in question the ass-kicking they so richly deserve? Moreover, before I continue the post I'd like to point out that I'm much more in favor of any "pro-environmental" action than how I probably come across on this blog. I am, however, not especially gung-ho about invoking taxes just for the hell of it when there is no coherent line of reasoning behind it, and no hope of it working.

Parts of my beef with this suggestion - which is right out of the Li'l Soviet Bastard 101 playbook - can be summarized as follows:

  • The prices of public transporation in Trondheim were just raised significantly this January. The proposal says jack about lowering these prices thus making it an affordable option.
  • If a large portion of Trondheim's commuters were to suddenly switch from driving their cars to using public transportation, the public transportation would break down, as the number of passengers would exceed maximum capacity during rush hour. This entails large investments in equipment + hiring of more personnel, all of which must be planned and executed in advance. Not to mention that there are quite a number of regions in Trondheim where at present there is practically no public transportation.
  • You simply can't force commuters to stop going to work by car AND trying to make them feel guilty about polluting with their vehicles without offering an alternative. Every time the comparison to Stockholm and their successful implementation of rush hour fee is brought into this debate I cringe, because to date, I've heard exactly nobody mention that besides all the other differences, Stockholm invested in drastically increasing the capacity of public transportation networks BEFORE they introduced the rush hour fee, so that there were actual alternatives.
  • Many commuters drive at least 30 minutes to work. How about the possibility that people might drive into another municipality to tank fuel, thus accomplishing the trifecta of a) making the owners of Trondheim gas stations go bankrupt, b) failing spectacularly to affect the number of people commuting by car, and 3) actually significantly increase the release of exhaust, as people would drive longer distances to tank.
  • Where would the money go? Unless the revenue from this tax is ear-marked for - say - alternative fuel, then this is just another way to screw citizens over.

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