filling up with gas Charlie Neuman/ZumaPress

改革燃料定价正当时

美国剑桥—世界油价在过去十年中波动剧烈,而在去年下跌超过50%。其经济效应对石油出国来说总体为负,而对石油进口国来说总体为正。但间接经济影响如何?如果我们关注环境和其他外部性,那么我们是应该希望油价上涨(因为这会遏制石油消费)还是油价下跌(因为这将遏制石油生产)?

答案是各国应该同时追求这两个目标:降低支付给石油生产商的价格提高消费者所支付的价格,办法可以是降低石油和石化产品补贴或提高税收。许多新兴市场国家利用下跌的石油价格实施了这方面的改革。如今令人意外地接近能源自给、因此宏观经济效果总体平衡的美国也应该赶上来。

想想这一点:美国公路和桥梁破败不堪,全国交通基础设施需要投资和维护。但美国国会可耻地一直逃避为联邦高速公路信托基金(Federal Highway Trust Fund)提供资金并为它奠定可靠的长期基础的责任,原因就在于如何出资问题得不到解决。显而易见的方案——也是经济学家长期呼吁的方案——是提高美国汽油税。联邦汽油税自1993年以来一直维持在每加仑18.4美分,是发达国家中最低的。但在7月30日,国会只采取了为期三个月的临时措施,自2009年以来第35次回避此问题。

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