Statement: Rather than a gas tax holiday, US should address oil dependence at its roots

Media Contacts
Lisa Frank

Executive Director, Environment America; Vice President and D.C. Director, The Public Interest Network

WASHINGTON — In an effort to alleviate the burden of high gas prices for American consumers, President Joe Biden on Wednesday called for a three-month suspension of the federal gas tax. The federal gas tax, at 18.4 cents per gallon, has not been raised since 1993. The average price of gas in the United States was $4.98 per gallon at the beginning of this week, compared to $3.07 per gallon a year ago this time. Suspending the gas tax will require action by Congress. The president also urged states to suspend their gas taxes or provide other relief to consumers.

Transportation is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions and a major source of health harming air pollution in the U.S. Passenger cars and trucks account for 60% of transportation-related emissions. 

In response, Environment America’s Washington Legislative Office Executive Director Lisa Frank released the following statement:

“Over the last century, America has built a transportation system that makes it easy to drive and hard to do almost anything else. As an unintended consequence, car-centric policies have also left us with choking traffic, polluted air and a dangerously warming planet. And they leave us vulnerable to oil price shocks caused by events over which we have no control, such as armed conflict half a world away.

“There is a way out of this mess, but it isn’t through short-term solutions like gas tax holidays. With the passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, we now have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to stop the damage by providing more and better alternatives to driving, such as rail, regional transit, walking and biking. States should use infrastructure dollars wisely to create more options. And Congress should pass tax credits for clean, electric vehicles. If we work toward a transportation system powered by the sun, wind and our own two feet, all Americans will reap the benefits: cleaner air to breathe, less time stuck in traffic and a safer climate. Regardless of gas prices, that future is worth driving toward.”

U.S. PIRG Environment Campaigns Director Matt Casale released the following statement:

“The current gas price spike is just the latest reminder that our dependence on oil leaves us all over a barrel. To really help consumers, we need more than a gas tax holiday — we need real transportation solutions that do not further deepen our dependence on cars and oil over the long haul. Not only would kicking our addiction to oil be good for our pocketbooks, but would help make us healthier and happier by cleaning up our air and ensuring a more livable climate.

“Instead of a gas tax holiday, which will only exacerbate our problems, President Biden should be calling for concrete steps that help Americans save money and also drive us toward a long-overdue off-ramp from oil and car dependence. Instead of subsidizing gasoline sales, why don’t we provide a ‘holiday’ on transit fares? Or we could provide emergency incentives for carpooling, or boost funding for workplace programs that help workers find cleaner commuting options. We could provide subsidies to offset the cost of e-bikes and conventional bikes. Or even pay people to ditch their cars altogether. That would cut back on demand for oil and ease price pressures for everyone.”