A Quick Summary of the 21st Century So Far

From a reader named Kevin Murphy (alas, not the Kevin Murphy):

The Economist just reported on what you covered in the “The Downside of More Miles Per Gallon” podcast in February. It’s looking like Oregon is leading the way in possibly charging per mile: “A bill that would have applied a VMT fee to all new vehicles doing 55mpg and above died in the last legislative session; instead, 5,000 volunteers will join a new VMT scheme in July 2015. They will be charged at 1.5 cents per mile rather than paying the state petrol tax (30 cents per gallon).”

Here’s another interesting bit from the Economist piece:

Still, Oregon’s long slog is telling. The design of its scheme shrewdly addresses the most acute public concerns, says Trey Baker at the Texas A&M Transportation Institute. Yet its backers could not persuade legislators to pass it in mandatory form (the watered-down bill passed with big bipartisan majorities). In many states, including Oregon, new taxes require legislative supermajorities. And even with Oregon-style safeguards, many drivers will heartily dislike handing over their personal data to governments. “It’s as much a political challenge as a technical challenge,” says Dan Sperling, a transport expert at the University of California, Davis.

It strikes me that that final quote — “It’s as much a political challenge as a technical challenge” — pretty much sums up the 21st century so far, wouldn’t you say?


Stupid idea. It is simply a way to hide an extra tax by the government and also take away one's privacy. If the government needs more money then have the courage to raise the gas tax. In addition Prius owners or electric car owners will probably end up paying the same fee as SUV owners so bad for the environment as well.

Jeff L

Why is the number of miles you drive on public roads an issue of privacy?


I presume that the crux of your argument has to do with the fact that the information gathered under this tax scheme (number of miles driven) couldn't (as of now) be used against or to the detriment of anyone. That shouldn't matter; privacy is privacy, and we all have the right to it.

Seanán Kerr

“It’s as much a political challenge as a technical challenge”

Meaningless I'd say, you could say something like that about any century, any era, anywhere and it could be framed as being relevant. What's a political challenge? Getting powerful people to agree to a proposition within a certain ideological frame work. What's a technical challenge? The actual machinations of getting something done. There is nothing in that statement that is unique to this century.


This Oregon idea seems to make the news ever year, though usually about the beginning of April.

Caleb B

I have an inherent distrust of the political ideas of any state that won't let me pump my own gas.


I grew up in the state of Washington and thought the same thing. Now I live in Oregon and I love that I don't have to pump my gas. I'm not sure how beneficial it is for employment, but as a consumer I like that I can just pull up to the station and stay in my car and listen to the radio.

Voice of Reason

In addition to allowing drivers to pay for their roads on a consumption basis, the gas tax also acts as a deterrent to using fossil fuels which add pollution to the air and depletes a nonrenewable resource.