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  Sierra Magazine
  November/December 2008
Table of Contents
 
  COLD SWEAT:
Ice Manliness Cometh
A Six-Dog-Power Engine
I (Heart) Snowshoeing
Skiing Yellowstone
Freeze-Frame
 
  MORE FEATURES:
Welcome Back to the World
Rotten Fish Tales
Big Fun in the Green Zone
 
  DEPARTMENTS:
Spout
Create
Enjoy
Hey Mr. Green
Smile
Act
Explore
Grapple
Comfort Zone
Mixed Media
Bulletin
Last Words
 
  MORE:
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Lay of the Land

Playing Chicken | 2020 Vision | Low Bench Marks | WWatch | The Hidden Cost of Gas | Sprawl | Bold Strokes | Updates

The Hidden Cost of Gas

Gasoline is cheap–or at least it appears to be. The average U.S. pump price at the time of this writing was $1.15, lower than it’s been in decades. One reason is that the real cost of gas is paid not at the pump but in your taxes, medical bills, insurance premiums, hours wasted in traffic jams, and the loss of open space. In 1998, the International Center for Technology Assessment tried to tally the hidden tolls, which ranged from outright government subsidies to oil companies (like the Percentage Depletion Allowance that lets them write off $784 million to $1 billion a year for oil they’ve already pumped) to providing military protection in the Middle East ($55 billion to $96 billion per year). Other effects are harder to quantify, like the social price of noise pollution, sprawl, and increased mortality through air and water pollution. Depending on the way the Center reckoned these factors, it came up with total external costs between $559 billion and $1.69 trillion a year. Using the higher figures, here’s how it might add up per gallon:

Tax subsidies, new roads, pollution cleanup: $1.01

Military and other protection: $1.05

Environmental, health, and social costs: $12.00

Total hidden costs of a gallon of gas: $14.14

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