AMSTERDAM: Van der Hoeven is a former economics minister for the Netherlands. She points out that the US currently has a lower gasoline tax than any other major developed country except Mexico. Maria van der Hoeven, head of the International Energy Agency, has issued a call for the US to raise the federal gasoline tax now while prices are low. The IEA was created in response to the oil supply crisis of 1973-74, but today serves as both statistician and research guide for 29 developed nations who are large oil consumers.
In a recent interview with McLatchy News, she said. “I really do hope is that these low oil prices will be used by policymakers as an opportunity to cut down fuel subsidies in those countries (such as Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand) that do have them. Whether it is a carbon tax or you do it in a different way . . . put a price on carbon. Because now with the low prices, the economy won’t be hurt, or will be less hurt, than in any other time so use that opportunity.”
The essence of her thinking is that higher energy cost are necessary to promote positive progress on climate change, but raising taxes is not politically possible when energy prices are so high that consumers are struggling to pay for gas to get to work. She thinks the recent collapse of fuel prices has handed politicians an opportunity to take the steps needed to ward off climate change and urges them not to squander it.