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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?