Is aviation really underpaying? High taxes drive away business. It won't drive to larger gauge, it will result in less air travel.
One does not (necessarily) exclude the other.
Push it too far and you will get a smaller aviation industry, which does not equal more trains. IN the United States, passengers pay at least some of the costs for the FAA, airports etc. Passenger rail operating costs on the other hand are subsidized and Amtrak only makes money on the NE Corridor.
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What external costs aren't being paid? Aviation is an elastic market. If costs go up, passenger count goes down. Eventually, you just shift business to low tax areas.
Not wanting to participate or take sides here. Just think it may be useful to point out that on this side of the Atlantic (central Europe), people view government influence, or even base tasks perhaps a bit differently than in the Americas.
In most of central Europe it is considered normal, and even a fundamental government task, to take active control over certain activities that has impact on all of the population. And yes, that sometimes national borders are crossed is not out of the question.
The main tools for government to take control over certain activities is subsidies (pro) and taxes (contra).
And another important thing to consider is that here it is not considered a requirement that taxes go back into the same sector; it is accepted that for instance aviation taxes go into general tax pots, welfare, or even railway construction . . .
Aviation, and its environmental impact - both in terms of noise pollution, air pollution, but also in terms of “plain” CO2 pollution
, will most likely become one of those fields where people will demand government action.
While CO2 pollution and associated claimed climate change is still a bit controversial in most of the world, in Europe that is rapidly going into general acceptance.
Now without going into CO2 debate, I just want to point out that people here expect the government to take action on CO2 (and other) pollution. It applies to many sectors here in Europe, except aviation. Aviation has escaped thanks to the 1944 Chicago convention. Or better the fundamental reason behind this of course is that (international) aviation by definition is cross borders and tax affects are therefore by definition cross border.
However, as I stated before, people more and more now demand our government to take action on the aviation CO2 exemption. Now that Trump is cancelling or even ignoring many international treaties, folks here see that as a perfect moment to ignore this part of the Chicago convention.
Believe me, whether you (or me) like it or not, start getting used to the idea, because it Is not a question if Europe will do this, but when they start taxing aviation fuel.
Again, not to stir the pot, just hope to bring some back ground to an interesting discussion.
Immigration officer: "What's the purpose of your visit to the USA?" Spotter: "Shooting airliners with my Canon!"