Fuel-efficient Cars Mean Less Funding from Gas Tax

Americans are driving less for the sixth month in a row, highlighting the need to find a more sustainable and effective way to fund highway construction and maintenance, said U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters in a June 18 press release.

The secretary said that Americans drove 1.4 billion fewer highway miles in April 2008 than at the same time a year earlier and 400 million miles less than in March of this year. She added that vehicle miles traveled on all public roads for April 2008 fell 1.8 percent as compared with April 2007 travel. This marks a decline of nearly 20 billion miles traveled this year, and nearly 30 billion miles traveled since November.

"We're burning less fuel as energy costs change driving patterns, steer people toward more fuel efficient vehicles, and encourage more to use transit. Which is exactly why we need a more effective funding source than the gas tax," Peters said.

The secretary said as Americans drive less, the federal Highway Trust Fund receives less revenue from gasoline and diesel sales – 18.4 cents per gallon and 24.4 cents per gallon, respectively.

Data also show midsize SUV sales were down last month 38 percent over May of last year; car sales, which had accounted for less than half of the industry volume in 2007, rose to 57 percent in May. She said past trends have shown Americans will continue to drive despite high gas prices, but will drive more fuel-efficient vehicles consuming less fuel. "History shows that we're going to continue to see congested roads while gas tax revenues decline even further," she said.

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