GOSHEN — Amid the familiar political refrain to cut taxes, one local group is doing just the opposite. They are voluntarily imposing a fifty cent per gallon gasoline tax on themselves.
“As much as we complain about rising fuel prices,” says Karl Shelly, local gas tax organizer, “they don’t come close to covering the environmental and foreign policy cost of our addiction to oil.”

In response to their concern, a dozen Goshen residents are initiating this voluntary gas tax campaign. The purpose of the self-imposed “tax” is to change their own gas-buying behavior and raise money for organizations working to break the public’s oil habit.
“Our heavy reliance on petroleum products contributes to global warming, air pollution, military intervention in oil producing regions, and unhealthy lifestyles,” remarked Shelly.
Participants gather every few months to pool their tax revenues and decide where to contribute their monies. At their first meeting, they decided to donate $407.02 of voluntary gas tax revenue to the Chain Reaction Bicycle Project. This Goshen-based project provides bicycle-powered curbside recycling, recycles old bikes, and advocates improving bike paths.
The group also liked that Chain Reaction provides meaningful employment to people who’ve been out of work. “People with low incomes are hit especially hard by rising prices, and those of us with extra resources can direct this tax to provide some support,” noted Eric Kurtz of Goshen.
The group’s second meeting in September 2008 netted over $1,000 and enabled them to take on a second project. The group voted to buy compact flourescent light bulbs and distribute them to low income families through The Window, a local social service agency.
The Gas Tax Club of Goshen is not the first of its kind. The gas tax campaign was initiated in November 2000 by a group of concerned citizens in Harrisonburg, Virginia. Their web site, www.voluntarygastax.org, serves as the inspiration for the Goshen group.
When it comes to paying voluntary taxes, the more the merrier says Shelly. Those interested can contact the campaign at GoshenGasTax@gmail.com, and they will receive tips on how to calculate their tax and start their own voluntary tax group.
– Karl Shelly