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Traffic crawls along both directions of State Highway 24 just west of the Caldecott Tunnel, Thursday, June 14, 2012 in Oakland, Calif. (D. Ross Cameron/Staff)

We are totally blown away by the creative audacity of Bay Area leaders proposing a per-mile tax on driving, maybe as early as next year, using -- wait for it -- a GPS-like tracker in every car to measure the distance it goes and the time of day the miles are racked up.

Members of Plan Bay Area, a collaboration of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and the Association of Bay Area Governments, are expected to approve a study Thursday that, among other things, could clear the way for a Vehicle Miles Traveled, or VMT tax.

Well, sort of clear. There would be the little matter of a public vote. And the epidemic of apoplexy preceding it. Details, details. This technology-based tax could be a breakthrough with implications for every aspect of our taxable lives. For example:

  • Gas and electricity. Smart meters measure how much power is used at different times of day. But really, to paraphrase our friends at the NRA -- houses don't use electricity, people use electricity. We need fingerprint recognition keypads at every light switch and appliance to see who's actually turning on the power. This way people could get individual power bills, creating precise and very personal incentives to conserve.

  • And water. Retina scans at every spigot and washing machine would tell all. Should the person who brushes her teeth using one glass of water pay the same water rate as someone who takes a 45 minute shower? Of course the latter would have to be a teenager, so parents would still be stuck with the bill. But they could pinpoint the source of profligacy and act accordingly -- maybe put the offender up for adoption, like families who, with the VMT, realize they just can't afford that second car.

  • Don't forget air. We spend a fortune to clean up our air, and some people use more than others. Bicyclists and joggers obviously are the 1962 Buicks of air consumption, but how do we know about, say, those closet treadmill runners we never see? Shouldn't everyone have a sensor implanted so we can tax by the cubic foot?

    We have lots more great ideas like this, but we're not sure we can go on with a straight face. Titter. Giggle. ROFLOL.

    Ahem. Sorry. Let's try again.

    It's fair to ask drivers to pay the cost of the roads and other infrastructure they use and to create incentives to drive less. It's also good to think ahead: As electricity replaces gasoline to power cars, the gas tax that currently pays some of those costs will go away. VMTs are already in place in parts of Europe, which is always ahead of us in conservation. Let's not forget the metric system.

    But next year? Putting a tracker in every car? Don't get us started on privacy.

    Thinking outside the box is a supreme Silicon Valley compliment. But sometimes you just have to take a breath, lift the lid and crawl back inside the box to cogitate. This is our suggestion for Plan Bay Area.

    Seriously.