Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Obama, the spill, and the medical marijuana model

The President addressed a pissed off nation last week about the BP oil disaster. His speech clarified what we already knew...that the government is impotent to stop the spill, and we are all at the mercy of a gaggle of incompotent BP engineers.

However, the real problem is that the government also has no way to stop the other gusher...America's oil use. The President talks up alternative technologies such as PHEVs and next gen biofuels, but these will not substantially cut oil use for at least a decade.

The only short term way to dramatically reduce American oil consumption is to jack up the price, but mentioning a gas tax in DC is now as politically savvy as chanting "drill baby drill", and the President's speech avoided the topic like the plague.


With all of these issues swirling, I spent last week in Boulder Colorado, apparently the happiest place on earth. The first thing you notice in Boulder is the beautiful mountain vistas. The second is the funky smell emanating from the dozens of medical marijuanna dispensaries.

Boulder's liberal medical marijuanna laws mean that obtaining a doctor's perscription for pot requires $200 and a slight cough. The town is reaping the benefits of the many Colorado University students suffering from 'chronic pain' by taxing the hell out of the bud. And slowly, the city is relying more and more on the funds to keep budgets afloat...and legalized marijuana is becoming a reality in Colorado.

My proposition is this: liberal cities like Boulder make their crunchy citizens happy by dramatically increasing local gas $3 or $4 / gallon... and offset the tax hike by lowering income taxes. The tax would be revenue neutral for citizens, but the income from travelers would fill city coffers.

Naturally, the city would pressure it's neighbors to follow suit, so people don't fill up next door. Eventually the effort would gain steam, and gas tax hikes would become tenable at the state and federal level.

The Boulder Chronic Model (BCM) is the best cure for America's chronic oil addiction.

Update, 7/20/10:
The NYT did a great story a few weeks back on the burgeoning Boulder marijuana business:

1 comment:

  1. I like the idea, but people still have to get around, and to do that without driving, they need other options. Automobiles account for something like 70% of the petroleum use in this country, and you're right - the only way to cut that use is to get people out of their cars. I think rather than going revenue-neutral, though, the higher revenue should be used to build better intra-city and regional transit - light rail, heavy rail, BRT, better buses generally, bike lanes and cycle tracks, the whole gamut. I don't know if that makes the idea of raising the gas tax less politically feasible (honestly, I think the only reason it's not is because certain politicians say it isn't), but it's definitely needed.

    In addition, policies to encourage/allow people to live closer to where they work (as they're trying to put into place in Tysons Corner) and reduce parking minimums and increase density in city zoning codes are necessary if we're really serious about things.