[...actually, in the spirit of accuracy, I do not yet know if this will be a truly unpopular proposal or not. But I know which way I'd bet]
With the price of "Regular" grade gasoline nearing $4 a gallon in most of the United States [and reaching that dubious milestone in several places, including Buffalo - Niagara Falls, NY, our home base], the last thing anybody is interested in is a reason for prices to rocket higher still. But, in the interest of fairness, I feel obliged to point it out.
For the last two decades or so, the tax rate on cigarettes sold in different states has risen. The rate is far out of proportion to the Cost Of Living, or other factors that should raise the price of a pack of cigarettes [the fact that we're talking about "packs" or "cartons" of ciggies is an important distinction; unrolled cigarette tobacco sells at a much lower tax rate, keeping its price correspondingly lower than rolled cigarettes. For instance, while a pack of "premium" brand cigarettes goes from around $4.75-$5.00, enough tobacco to roll yourself 20 (or more) cigarettes sells for less than $2. And they throw in the rolling papers, in most cases!]. When asked, officials in the states with high cigarette taxes openly admit they are trying to discourage smoking by putting the price out of convenient reach for most consumers. As a gesture of commitment, they plow the taxes into "Quitlines", or cancer research, or what have you, as long as it's somehow connected to ending smoking, or curing its unfortunate effects.
Fair enough. Consider the issues relating to petroleum consumption:
1. / It's a limited resource
2. / The countries with the most of it hold an unhealthy control over those with the
most need of it
3. / While the US has a fair amount of petroleum, our over-use of it in the past has
led us to become one of those nations desperate for more [the analogy of a
junkie may be unpleasant to some, but not inaccurate]
4. / Alternatives to petroleum are not forthcoming, or lead to their own problems
[for instance, ethanol. It stretches the gas we do have. But it also may lead to
dramatic shortages of corn, and foods made from corn. It's not a big step to
link ethanol with food riots that have broken out in several world regions].
As far as rationing gas, let me introduce you to the first politician who'd suggest such a move.
Point taken? Okay.
So what CAN we do? Well, if it works [somewhat] for cigarette smoking, it may just work for gasoline. Raise the tax on gasoline to painful levels, and force people to at least consider using public transportation. The tax windfall should be used to improve and extend public transport to as many places as possible. There you have it. Any politician, environmentalist, or good-deed-doer is free to use this plan without charge. Just, please, please, please keep my name out of this.