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AP

Biden pitches plans to bring down gas prices

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President Joe Biden on Wednesday called on Congress to suspend federal gasoline and diesel taxes for three months — an election-year move meant to ease financial pressures that was greeted with doubts by many lawmakers. The Democratic president also called on states to suspend their own gas taxes or provide similar relief and delivered a public critique of the energy industry for prioritizing profits over production. Still, his announcement depends on the actions of lawmakers in Washington and in statehouses across the country to actually bring relief to consumers. Using the bully pulpit when his administration believes it has run out of direct levers to pull to address soaring gas prices, Biden insisted: "I promise you, I'm doing everything possible, everything possible to bring the price of energy down, gas prices down." At issue is the 18.4 cents-a-gallon federal tax on gas and the 24.4 cents-a-gallon federal tax on diesel fuel. If the gas savings were fully passed along to consumers, people would save roughly 3.6% at the pump when prices are averaging about $5 a gallon nationwide. Biden's push faces uphill odds in Congress, which must act in order to suspend the tax, and where many lawmakers, including some in his own party, have expressed reservations. Even many economists view the idea of a gas tax holiday with skepticism. High gas prices pose a fundamental threat to Biden's electoral and policy ambitions. They've caused confidence in the economy to slump to lows that bode poorly for defending Democratic control of the House and the Senate in November. Biden's past efforts to cut gas prices — including the release of oil from the U.S. strategic reserve and greater ethanol blending this summer — have done little to produce savings at the pump, a risk that carries over to the idea of a gas tax holiday. Administration officials said the $10 billion cost of the gas tax holiday would be paid for and the Highway Trust Fund kept whole, even though the gas taxes make up a substantial source of revenue for the fund. The officials did not specify any new revenue sources. The president has also called on energy companies to accept lower profit margins to increase oil production and refining capacity for gasoline. Energy companies are scheduled to meet Thursday with Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm to discuss ways to increase supply.

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