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Are higher gas prices really so taxing? [Commentary]

Talking about gas can be dangerous. People can get pretty emotional about the stuff they put in their cars.

A couple of years ago, I got chewed out by somebody on Facebook after I mentioned that raising the price on gas seemed like a logical idea.

She called me all kinds of names for even suggesting that she should pay more for gas.

Now there's Maryland's new gas tax, which just raised the average cost by 4 cents per gallon. And I'm guessing this former-Facebook-friend of mine is one of many people who is royally annoyed about it.

But regardless of whether the tax makes economic sense for Maryland (and Harford County Executive/candidate for governor David Craig suggested it doesn't), my view is that 4 cents (or even 8 cents) is just not a whole lot more money, in the grand scheme of things.

While I know people who say things like, "Wow, gas is $3.68 here? It's only $3.53 in my neighborhood," I have never been somebody who notices incremental differences in gas prices.

Maybe this is unwise considering how much I drive and how much gas I consume, but I just feel like it's an example of being "penny wise and pound foolish."

Considering how much money people waste on their cars, whether it's through buying inefficient vehicles or getting regularly ripped off by auto shops (do you really need an oil change every 3,000 miles?), I feel like gas might not be the worst thing you're spending your money on.

I feel supported in my view by the fact that this is still one of the cheaper countries in which to drive a car.

For example, the most expensive gas is in Turkey, Norway and the Netherlands, where gas is as much as $9.98 per gallon, according to a recent Bloomberg business report.

The U.S., meanwhile, was ranked 51 out of 60 countries for the average price of gas.

The only places where it's cheaper are countries like Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Egypt (well, Mexico is slightly cheaper, too).

Don't you feel a little better about taking that July 4 getaway now?

(I guess that's not a fair question since no one in other countries would be taking a July 4 getaway, but you know what I mean.)

I do think the perception that everyone is automatically opposed to higher gas prices is not totally true.

Last time I wrote about gas prices, probably a couple of years ago now, I talked to a couple of random residents who thought gas should cost even more, to make people think about what it is really worth and make them consider a less car-dependent lifestyle.

I realize many people bristle at the idea of being "made to consider" anything, especially if the government is doing it.

I'm just saying, I hope people don't go all out trashing the gas tax if their only reason is they don't want to pay more money.

We all know gas is kind of a racket anyway, right? Gas stations change their prices by the day, sometimes by the hour, for no seemingly logical reason.

In some places, you can get gas in the morning and watch the price go down by the afternoon at the same station.

I know I should be mad because a tax means it's the government taking my money instead of some company in Pennsylvania (or somebody I've never even heard of in Saudi Arabia), but to be honest, I kind of don't care.

I'm losing money either way. And at the end of the day, the sad reality is that there's not a whole lot I can do about it (lip service about "writing to your congressman" aside).

As Bel Air resident Andrew Stavros told me, "Gas is what it is. You can't really control what the gas price is."

It may be a defeatist attitude, but I think he's basically right.

Personally, I hope more people save their car-expense-fury for auto repair stores. That's where it really hurts.

I once had a teensy nail in my tire tread, not even close to going through the tire, and a shop in Montgomery County wanted me to buy a whole new tire. Never going there again. Just saying.

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