Joe Biden calls on Congress for 'gas tax holiday' amid soaring prices

Record number of Americans are forecast to travel by car during Independence Day weekend

President Joe Biden called on Congress to pass a 'gas tax holiday' in a bid to lower the price of petrol at the pump. AP
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US President Joe Biden has called on Congress to enact a three-month federal petrol tax holiday as prices across the country continue to hit new highs.

Mr Biden also urged states to provide more relief for drivers by suspending their state fuel taxes.

"I fully understand that the gas tax holiday alone is not going to fix the problem, but it will provide family some immediate relief," Mr Biden said in remarks on Wednesday.

The Biden administration has been mulling the idea of calling for a fuel tax holiday for months while it faces increasing pressure over petrol prices and as the US leader's approval ratings continue to slump.

Congressional approval would be needed to suspend the 18 cents (Dh0.66) a gallon tax on petrol and the 24 cents a gallon tax on diesel. But with members of Congress reluctant to act, Mr Biden's pitch will likely only be symbolic.

Democratic and Republican legislators have expressed scepticism over implementing the measure. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi previously said it would not help customers if US oil companies retain the savings.

Mr Biden urged companies to "pass along every penny of this 18-cent reduction" to drivers.

Again attributing the rising costs of petrol to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Mr Biden said the US would have to pay the price for standing up to President Vladimir Putin.

"This is a time of war ... These are not normal times," he said.

The sanctions slapped on Russia by the US, along with inflation and increased demand, have caused petrol prices to soar. The national average reached $5 per gallon earlier this month, data from GasBuddy, a fuel-saving website, showed.

Despite the soaring costs at the pump, Americans are expected to hit the road in record numbers this summer. Forty-two million Americans are forecast to travel 80 kilometres or more by car during the July 4 holiday weekend, motorist group AAA reported.

And with airline prices 14 per cent more expensive this year than in 2021, only 7 per cent of this year's travellers are expected to travel by plane, the AAA said.

Previous efforts by the Biden administration to mitigate rising prices, such as tapping into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, have done little to ease prices for consumers.

Suspending the federal gas tax would cost the Highway Trust Fund $10 billion in revenue, but the White House said the fund could be made whole by other revenue.

Reuters contributed to this report

Updated: June 23, 2022, 6:18 AM