President Joe Biden said Monday he is considering creating a federal gas tax holiday, which could save Americans as much as 18.4 cents per gallon, although his ex-boss, former President Barack Obama, called such a move a “gimmick” on the campaign trail back in 2008.
Biden told reporters after taking a walk along the beach near his vacation home in Delaware that he will decide by the end of the week whether to pause the federal gas tax.
“Yes, I’m considering it,” Biden said. “I hope to have a decision based on the data — I’m looking for by the end of the week.”
The president’s comments paint a stark contrast to presidential candidate and then-Illinois Sen. Obama’s words from 2008. Biden’s former boss said at the time that a gas tax holiday was a “gimmick” to save Americans half a tank of gas over the summer so that lawmakers could “say that they did something.”
“We don’t know that the oil companies will actually pass on the savings,” Obama said at a speech in North Carolina in April 2008. “So you’re saving 5% in terms of the gas tax. It’s not clear what would prevent the oil companies from just jacking up prices 5%. So you end up giving them more money. And we’ve drained the Highway Trust Fund. Now, this is the problem with Washington. We’re facing a situation where oil prices could hit $200 a barrel.”
“Oil companies like Shell and BP just reported record profits for the quarter and we’re arguing over a gimmick to save you half a tank of gas over the course of the entire summer so that everyone in Washington can pat themselves on the back and say that they did something,” he continued.
The idea to pause the federal gas tax was supported by two opponents in the 2008 presidential race — former GOP Arizona Sen. John McCain and former Democratic New York Sen. Hillary Clinton.
Biden also said during his remarks Monday that members of his team will meet with major oil company CEOs this week to discuss rising prices at the pump.
His administration is evaluating options to alleviate the burden of record-high gas prices. The cost of gas began to soar last fall and continued to rise following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in late February.
The nationwide average for gas prices currently sits at $4.98 a gallon, according to AAA. Before this year, the highest national gas price average ever recorded by AAA was $4.114 per gallon in July 2008.
The president accused oil refiners of driving up gas prices in letters sent last week to seven refinery operators, including ExxonMobil and BP.
“The sharp rise in gasoline prices is not driven only by rising oil prices, but by an unprecedented disconnect between the price of oil and the price of gas,” Biden’s letters read.
But oil refiners have said their ability to produce additional gas and diesel fuel is limited.
The American Petroleum Institute and American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers sent a joint letter to Biden on Wednesday saying that refineries are already operating close to their maximum capacity and nearly half of the capacity taken off-line was because of the facilities converting to renewable energy production.
“Today’s situation did not materialize overnight and will not be quickly solved,” the letter read. “To protect and foster U.S. energy security and refining capacity, we urge to you to take steps to encourage more domestic energy production, including new infrastructure and reducing regulatory burdens.”
The Penn Wharton Budget Model published estimates Wednesday revealing that gas tax holidays in Georgia, Maryland and Connecticut saved consumers money at the pump. Most of the savings went to consumers, not service stations and others in the energy sector.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in Toronto on Monday at a joint press conference with Canadian Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland that consumers “are really hurting from higher gas prices” and suggested she is open to a gas tax holiday.
“It’s been a substantial burden on American households and I think, while not perfect, it is something that should be under some consideration as a policy to address it,” Yellen said.
Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, however, said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union” that “part of the challenge with the gas tax, of course, is that it funds the roads.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have each previously expressed skepticism about pausing the federal gas tax.