Whitty believes that the state should prepare for the day when 100-mpg vehicles and electric cars dominate the road. Oregon, he noted, boasts the country's highest ratio of hybrid cars -- 30,000 out of 3.8 million vehicles. With oil trading below $50 per barrel, there would be less incentive to buy a hybrid -- yet the green trust is busy working on another reason to not buy a hybrid. Some critics have privacy issues with under-the-hood transponders that could track where a car travels. No worries, the 2007 paper asserts the Oregon plan "protects privacy. Places driven cannot be revealed nor are they stored."
Maybe the pilot program was set up that way. But Whitty told me the transponders are supposed to track out-of-state driving. And down here, where I get a regular bill with the dates and times for when I paid to cross the Bay Bridge, it's hard to imagine that after built-in transponders are standard in every new auto, nanny state governments won't come up with a menu of behaviors beyond driving too much -- as in, driving in cities, driving during rush hour -- to enable states to levy extra taxes.
Follow the money and the red flag. The road-tax report gushes about how mileage transponders can be used to implement "congestion pricing" -- by adding fees for driving in urban areas or during rush hour. Think the London program that charges motorists $15 per day to drive in the central city. Our Betters in Europe like it -- so of course, Davos-happy solons from American cities (San Francisco, New York) want their subjects to support this pricey trend.
Robert Poole, director of transportation studies at the Reason Foundation, thinks a congestion tax makes sense for London and "probably makes sense for Manhattan." But: "There's not enough congestion on the streets of San Francisco to make congestion pricing a solution to a real problem. It's a solution looking for a problem."
My big fear isn't being tailed by a black helicopter on my way to the grocery store. My fear is that that enviro do-gooders will use this unnecessary road tax to devise new busybody regulations just to keep me out of my car -- when gridlock, the cost and stress already serve as disincentives.
My fear is that my tax dollars will be used to bankroll a scheme to punish me for using roads my tax dollars already paid for, because some day I might own an electric car.