Natural gas and many other potential vehicle fuels are Wyoming products. And like the oil also produced here, such fuels can be used to power vehicles. Homegrown products are worth promoting, especially if we can add value to them before they're used here and elsewhere.
That's why we think it was too soon to slap users of the new fuel -- who still struggle to find a fueling station -- with the same tax as their gasoline-powered friends and neighbors, as the Wyoming Legislature did this year.
Now lawmakers are again considering taxing fuels that hardly get any use yet, such as butane, hydrogen and electricity. We think doing so is premature. Since they’re just emerging, we think it’s too soon to rain down taxes on their use.
However, it does make sense to tax them just like gasoline and other traditional fuels – eventually. We’d like to see lawmakers, who are weighing such a tax now, consider levying it gradually.
It makes sense that all drivers should pay to maintain our roads, regardless of what’s fueling their vehicles. The 24-cents-per-gallon fuel tax is an important one, and we must be fair. All drivers should contribute toward road upkeep.
The Legislature decision to tax compressed natural gas and liquefied natural gas at the 24-cents-per gallon equivalent went into effect in April. We’d have preferred to see that tax phased in gradually, but it’s not too late for other alternative fuels like butane, cooking grease, pure methanol, hydrogen, electricity and liquids that might one day be squeezed from coal.
If we want to support the use of alternative fuels – and for our economy, we do -- we have to give people a reason to try them, and that includes the economic incentive of low-powered fuels.
Legislators are considering a flat fee at licensing for some types of vehicles, and that’s worth exploring for down the road. There might be no other way to charge people who plug in their cars at home, or those who invest in costly in-home units as a source of compressed natural gas. But again, fees at licensing are absolutely the wrong way to promote alternative fuels while they’re in their infancy.
Many Americans are beginning to turn away from gasoline and other traditional fuels. The federal government is backing away from biofuels, realizing they’re not quite the silver bullet it hoped they’d be.
A void has opened, and some Wyoming fuels could step in. Let's encourage their use, then tax them later.