This is an absolutely phenomenal article by Charles Komanoff of Grist. He asserts that the most reasonable path to energy/fuel conservation comes from higher prices, but outlines the problem with that:
Higher prices do reduce usage. The challenge is to find a way to keep raising fuel prices without harming our economy, our pocketbooks, and, of critical importance, the millions of poor families who can’t afford higher prices for gas, home heating, and electricity and shouldn’t be made to pay to solve a problem not of their making.
Komaroff then proposes a tax shift away from current, regressive taxes toward a fuel tax. David Roberts points out in his comment the problem with this plan:
The political problem the fuel tax faces is that it’s a tax, and whether it’s shifted or rebated or whatever, the word “tax” is a weapon of the right, and it has rarely failed them. Whether the charge is accurate or not, the fuel tax will immediately be branded leftist social engineering.
The conclusion agreed upon by the various commenters is this: the idea is spot on, but please don’t associate Ralph Nader with it, and don’t call it a progressive fuel tax. Call it a tax break, or something else focusing on the eliminated taxes rather than the imposed ones. And an anti-tax Republican campaigning for this “tax break” would be great too.