If we want to reduce fossil fuel consumption, I say, we should raise the price of gasoline to $7 a gallon.
Reason: Today this country burns through 21 million barrels of oil per day, 60 percent of which is imported. Only with some shared economic pain will we ever change our habits.
High gas prices will force us to think before we drive. It will encourage mass transit use, car pooling, and the sale of more fuel-efficient cars.
The auto industry will not suffer because it has learned that it can charge more for cars that are cheaper to build if those cars have a few luxury touches.
Individuals will spend more dollars on gasoline, even factoring in the reduced usage, but American motorists are notoriously inefficient and have traditionally done an awful job of planning their errand runs.
Average families will feel the pain, but, in my view, a move to less-expensive beer and other consumer goods should go a long way toward softening this inconvenience.
Drivers who own gas-guzzling pickup trucks will be motivated to carpool or take mass transit where it’s available.
Because mass transit is not as widely available as it should be, much of the gas price increase would be allocated to improving our railroads and creating more bus lanes.
As for diesel fuel, I would leave it at its current price of $4 a gallon. Yes, that will encourage the sale of diesel vehicles, but despite the hue and cry of environmentalists about all things diesel, those cars today are just as fuel efficient as the gas-burning kind.
Large diesel trucks, of course, must remain because they deliver the majority of the goods we consume.
My proposition is simple enough. Higher fuel prices mean less fuel consumed, and that means cleaner air and reduced dependence on imported fossil fuels.
A tough proposal? Sure. But Americans are a tough people capable of making hard decisions when it comes to spending.
The opinions expressed in “The Contrarian View” do not represent those of The Saturday Evening Post.