Yellen Gives Opinion On Pausing Federal Gas Tax To Bring Prices Down
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen testifies during the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee hearing titled The Financial Stability Oversight Council Annual Report to Congress, in Dirksen Senate Office Building on May 10, 2022 in Washington, DC.
Tom Williams-Pool via Getty Images

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said on Sunday that suspending gas taxes is “certainly worth considering” amid rising energy prices.

The comments came during an interview with ABC News host George Stephanopoulos. The national average gas price continues to hover near $5.00 per gallon, according to AAA.

Stephanopoulos questioned Yellen on whether Congress could feasibly enact a federal gas tax holiday as a “short term” measure to ease pressure on consumers.

“Gas prices have risen a great deal, and it’s clearly burdening households. So he stands ready to work with Congress, and that’s an idea that’s certainly worth considering,” Yellen said of President Joe Biden.

The federal government currently imposes a gas tax of $0.184 per gallon of gasoline and $0.244 per gallon of diesel, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Combined with state taxes, the average American driver pays $0.571 in gas taxes per gallon, according to the American Petroleum Institute, with Californians facing some of the highest tax burdens.

When pressed by Stephanopoulos on the Biden administration’s “shifting away from domestic oil and natural gas,” Yellen denied that the White House is to blame for rising fuel prices. She instead attributed the phenomenon to producers’ failure to anticipate higher demand for fuel after the recession.

Yellen also argued for a “medium term” need to emphasize green energy. “The way in which we can ensure reasonable energy expenses for households is to move to renewables, to address climate change,” she contended. “That’s a way to free us from geopolitical movements in oil prices.”

Multiple White House officials — including Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, and President Joe Biden himself — have similarly argued that high gas prices will accelerate a transition to green energy, especially as more Americans buy electric cars.

“The people who stand to benefit most from owning an EV are often rural residents who have the longest distances to drive, they burn the most gas, and underserved urban residents in areas where there are higher gas prices and lower-income,” Buttigieg said last year. “They would gain the most by having that vehicle. These are the very residents who have not always been connected to electric vehicles that are viewed as kind of a luxury item.”

Governor Gavin Newsom (D-CA) rejected Republican lawmakers’ bid to suspend an upcoming increase in the state’s gas tax, alleging that the policy would help “petro-dictators and oil companies.” Instead, Newsom pursued a plan to distribute up to $800 in tax rebates per person, depending on the number of vehicles registered in an individual’s name.

The Biden administration is likewise considering a plan to send gas rebate cards to Americans. As one White House official told Fox Business, Biden “has made clear that he is willing to explore all options and hear all ideas that would help lower gas prices for the American people,” although “no decisions have been made.”

Last week, Biden sent a letter to oil companies urging them to hike production and slash their profits amid rising gas prices.

“There is no question that Vladimir Putin is principally responsible for the intense financial pain the American people and their families are bearing,” Biden wrote. “But amid a war that has raised gasoline prices more than $1.70 per gallon, historically high refinery profit margins are worsening that pain.”

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