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The Washington Independent

Obama: Rail in Lieu of Gas Tax Holiday

Elisa Mueller
News
Last updated: Jul 31, 2020 | May 02, 2008

The lone holdout in the much-hyped campaign push to scrap the 18.4-cent-per-gallon federal gas tax for the summer has been Barack Obama. The Illinois senator says it won’t save much at the pump, and the oil companies are likely to eat the benefit anyways. (Economists happen to agree).

Yesterday, campaigning in Indiana, Obama wondered why skyrocketing gas costs haven’t prompted a stronger move away from car travel:

The irony is with the gas prices what they are, we should be expanding rail service … We are going to be having a lot of conversations this summer about gas prices. And it is a perfect time to start talk about why we don’t’ have better rail service. We are the only advanced country in the world that doesn’t have high speed rail. We just don’t’ have it. And it works on the Northeast corridor. They would rather go from New York to Washington by train than they would by plane. It is a lot more reliable and it is a good way for us to start reducing how much gas we are using. It is a good story to tell.

It didn’t take long for the environmentalists to pick up on the words. Colin Peppard, transportation policy coordinator for Friends of the Earth, said, "Rail is an efficient, cost-effective way to travel that also happens to limit global warming. Senator Obama deserves a lot of credit for his foresight and candor."

Not that environmentalism has a chance of trumping economics as voters choose their candidates (Clinton is already running ads calling Obama "out of touch" with the American people.) But as an experiment in political responsibility, Obama’s stand will be interesting to watch.

Elisa Mueller | Elisa Mueller was born in Kansas City, Missouri, to a mother who taught reading and a father who taught film. As a result, she spent an excessive amount of her childhood reading books and watching movies. She went to the University of Kansas for college, where she earned bachelor's degrees in English and journalism. She moved to New York City and worked for Entertainment Weekly magazine for ten years, visiting film sets all over the world.

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