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Putting brakes on the gas tax? Lawmakers pushed to get ’er done!

Gas prices have been on the rise now for several months. (William Munoz/Missoula Current file)

WASHINGTON (CN) — President Joe Biden called on Congress Wednesday to pause the federal gas tax for the next 90 days during the summer travel season, promising a seal of approval on legislation that’s been proposed in both chambers of the body.

“Every time you go to the gas station to fill your tank, the federal government charges an 18-cent tax per gallon of gas that you purchase and a 24-cent tax per gallon of diesel you purchase,” Biden explained. “It’s a tax that’s been around for 90 years.”

Biden termed the measure as one that will benefit all Americans, and he further pushed oil and gas station companies to “pass this along every penny” of the tax break consumers. 

“This is no time now for profiteering,” Biden said, telling the companies that run gas stations who to focus on.

“Remember how we got here,” he continued. “Putin invaded Ukraine.”

The price of gas has gone up by roughly $2 throughout the United States, to around $5 per gallon in the three months since the Biden administration banned the import of Russian oil to retaliate against the country’s invasion of Ukraine.

“We could have turned a blind eye to Putin’s murderous ways,” Biden said. “The price of gas wouldn’t have spiked the way it has, but I believe that would have been wrong.”

Russia accounts for 13.1% of the world’s oil, but that is still less than the 14.5% of global oil production that comes from U.S. companies, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Together, they are still far below than the 44% that comes from the 13 OPEC countries.

Biden on Wednesday cut through criticism from Republican lawmakers that his administration should encourage more domestic oil production in light of gas prices.

“Quite frankly, that’s nonsense,” the president said. “Here’s the truth. Just this month, America produced 12 million barrels of oil per day. That’s higher than the average under my predecessor. and we’re on track to set a new record for production next year.”

He added that he is releasing a record 1 million barrels of oil per day from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve onto the market and encouraging oil companies to amp up production in order to increase supply.

As to Republicans’ claim that he’s blocking oil production on federal lands, Biden said Wednesday that the industry has more approved permits for production on federal lands and they can possibly use. The problem in the production chain, he continued, is that there aren’t enough oil refineries — a problem driven by pandemic shutdowns.

Biden maintained Wednesday that the federal gas tax holiday wouldn’t take any money away from the Highway Trust Fund, the coffer the government pulls from for highway and mass transit projects.

“With the tax revenues up this year, and our deficit down over $1.6 trillion this year alone, we’ll still be able to fix our highways and bring down prices of gas,” Biden said.

The president also pushed for gas-relief action at the state level, where the average state gas tax is 30 cents per gallon. 

Biden noted Wednesday that some states have already moved to suspend gas taxes temporarily, like

Connecticut and New York have already backed measures to temporarily suspend gas taxes, while Biden noted that Illinois and Colorado have delayed tax increases. In Michigan and Minnesota, meanwhile, governors have proposed using state budget surpluses to give households a rebate that will help them pay for gas at the pump.

“I fully understand that the gas tax holiday alone is not going to fix the problem, but it will provide families some immediate relief,” Biden said. “Just a little bit of breathing room as we continue working to bring down prices for the long haul.”

The president noted he has worked with international partners to release an additional 240 million barrels of oil into the global supply and also pushed plans to expand access to biofuels like E15, a gasoline with a 15% ethanol blend, to stretch supply.

What’s more, he said White House officials like Department of Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm will meet with oil and refining companies Thursday to ask them to help with solutions to increase refinery capacity and output. Biden added that he’d sent a letter to the CEOs of the largest oil refining companies asking them to work with his administration to bring refineries and back online.

Lastly, he pushed to lower the price of electric vehicles and invest more heavily in public transportation to lessen the hold oil has over the country. 

“Let’s keep accelerating our deployment of homegrown resources, sources of energy like solar and wind and nuclear and hydrogen carbon capture storage and keep developing battery technologies,” Biden said. “Let’s make sure we’re never again forced to pay the price. of a menacing dictator, halfway around the world. We can deal with me this immediate crisis of high gas prices and still sees the clean energy future.”