We're stuck -- $4 gas and steadily rising pump prices. So McCainand Hillary say let's lower or eliminate the modest 18 centsfederal gas tax, which pays for road repairs and mass transit. Thatonly would serve to discourage conservation behaviors and keepdemand up, which ends up increasing prices anyway. But most peoplein this country depend on their cars to go anywhere and do anything-- work, school, shopping, recreation, kids play dates. That's howwe developed our metropolitan areas over the last half century,building roads and more roads to farther flung subdivisions,separated from strip shopping centers and office parks. About 80%of us live totally car dependent lifestyles. Cheap gas andlow gas taxes (one-tenth of many Euro countries) made it allpossible. Now those days are over and it begins to hurt...bad.


We had ample warnings in 1974 and 1979 of oil dependency'sconsequences, including inflation, recession, and gas lines. Butback then the U.S. still was a major oil producer and countrieslike India and China were not competing for fuel stocks. Althoughour supplies were tapping out, other countries, particularly in theMiddle East had many decades worth of reserves. Back then, onceMiddle East tensions calmed, oil flows resumed. But today oilexploration struggles to find new reserves. Odds are gas pricescontinue to rise rather than track down appreciably, especiallygiven rising world demand. And what happens if terrorists or someconflagration shuts down a major oil supplier nation? We're introuble.


Actually, we need to raise gas taxes more to maintain our agingroads so people can get around and pay for more mass transit. Andas I have noted before, more tolls and other user fees will hitdrivers' wallets in the future as we cope with paying for essentialand costly infrastructure improvements. Over time theeconomics will force changes to our lifestyles and encouragedevelopers and planners to create communities, which reduce cardependency. It's going to be tough medicine. Car makers, meanwhile,will grudgingly accept higher fleet fuel efficiency standards andreduce car sizes. And maybe we will finally focus on alternativeenergy sources and technologies. We wasted 30 years, ignoring thewarning signs. The idea of lowering gas taxes just perpetuates badhabits that got us into this fix and offers no remedy. Let'sface the reality -- driving costs will continue to increase.

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Jonathan D. Miller

A marketing communication strategist who turned to real estate analysis, Jonathan D. Miller is a foremost interpreter of 21st citistate futures – cities and suburbs alike – seen through the lens of lifestyles and market realities. For more than 20 years (1992-2013), Miller authored Emerging Trends in Real Estate, the leading commercial real estate industry outlook report, published annually by PricewaterhouseCoopers and the Urban Land Institute (ULI). He has lectures frequently on trends in real estate, including the future of America's major 24-hour urban centers and sprawling suburbs. He also has been author of ULI’s annual forecasts on infrastructure and its What’s Next? series of forecasts. On a weekly basis, he writes the Trendczar blog for GlobeStreet.com, the real estate news website. Outside his published forecasting work, Miller is a prominent communications/institutional investor-marketing strategist and partner in Miller Ryan LLC, helping corporate clients develop and execute branding and communications programs. He led the re-branding of GMAC Commercial Mortgage to Capmark Financial Group Inc. and he was part of the management team that helped build Equitable Real Estate Investment Management, Inc. (subsequently Lend Lease Real Estate Investments, Inc.) into the leading real estate advisor to pension funds and other real institutional investors. He joined the Equitable Life Assurance Society of the U.S. in 1981, moving to Equitable Real Estate in 1984 as head of Corporate/Marketing Communications. In the 1980's he managed relations for several of the country's most prominent real estate developments including New York's Trump Tower and the Equitable Center. Earlier in his career, Miller was a reporter for Gannett Newspapers. He is a member of the Citistates Group and a board member of NYC Outward Bound Schools and the Center for Employment Opportunities.