With the price of gas rising across the U.S., lawmakers are developing a string of proposals to help motorists – from $400 rebates for all taxpayers in California to imposing windfall taxes on oil companies or a sliding scale of payments that could net families as much as $300 every month.
This week, the average price of a gallon of regular gas in Los Angeles hit a record $6.011, even as the national average continued to decline slightly from the all-time high earlier this month, according to the AAA Gas Price Index.
An opinion poll published Wednesday found that almost three quarters of voters were in favor of a holiday from federal energy taxes to ease the burden.
And lawmakers across the country are pushing legislation to bring down prices at the pumps.
A new bill proposed by three Democrats – Reps. Mike Thompson of California, John Larson of Connecticut and Lauren Underwood of Illinois – could be worth $300 each month to some families if the price of a gallon stays above $4.
‘Americans are feeling the impact at the pump of Vladimir Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, and right now we must work together on commonsense policy solutions to ease the financial burden that my constituents are feeling,’ Thompson said in a news release.
‘The Putin Price Hike is putting strain on our economy, and I am proud to be working with Reps. Larson and Underwood to introduce this legislation to provide middle-class Americans with monthly payments to ease the financial burden of this global crises.’
Their plan follows the model of COVID economic impact payments – offering $100 for single filers earning less than $75,000, plus $100 for each dependent.
It is just one of a series of proposals unveiled recently.
In California, Democratic lawmakers want a $400 rebate for taxpayers – costing about $9 billion drawn from the state’s budget surplus and equivalent to the average gas tax paid by residents over a year.
And Rep. Peter DeFazio of Oregon is pushing his Stop Gas Price Gouging Tax and Rebate Act, which would impose a windfall tax on oil and gas companies, redistributing their profits to ordinary Americans.
‘Big Oil is foaming at the mouth,’ he said.
‘After price-gouging Americans in 2021 to make record profits, Big Oil is now reaping the benefits of Putin’s price hike.’
An overwhelming majority of voters want action to reduce prices, according to a new Politico/Morning Consult poll.
It found that 73 percent would support a ‘temporary break’ from federal gas taxes, while 72 percent said they would back a similar move with state gas taxes.
Details were published a day after prices surged past $6 in Los Angeles.
On Wednesday, they stood at $6.022 in the city and $5.875 across the state of California.
Nationwide, the average price of gas stood at $4.237, down slightly from the record high of $4.331 set on March 11, according to AAA.
Experts at GasBuddy said that Tuesday’s prices in Los Angeles marked the first major US city to reach $6 gas.
California, which has strict regulations and higher-than-average state taxes on gas, tends to lead the nation in fuel prices.
That trend has continued in recent weeks, after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine disrupted world oil markets. But even though the price of crude oil has fallen about $20 from its peak earlier this month, California gas prices have continued to rise.
On Tuesday, US benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude was trading at around $112 per barrel, down from a recent peak of $130. For every $10 increase in the price of oil, a gallon of gas rises about 20 cents.
Experts say that demand for gasoline has declined in recent weeks, defying normal seasonal trends, perhaps due to the eye-watering prices at the pump.
‘Usually this time of year, with warmer weather and longer days, we’d see an uptick in gasoline demand as more people hit the road,’ said AAA spokesman Andrew Gross on Monday.
‘But we had a slight drop in demand last week, which may be due to higher pump prices. In our new survey of drivers, 59 percent said they would change their driving habits or lifestyle if the cost of gas hit $4 per gallon,’ he added.
‘And if gas were to reach $5, which it has in the Western part of the country, three-quarters said they would need to adjust their lifestyle to offset the pump price,’ said Gross.
Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, said that while prices could continue to taper nationally this week, drivers could be in for more pain at the pump as the summer driving season gets underway.
‘For now, gasoline demand has shown absolutely no signs of buckling under the pressure of higher prices, even as California nears an average of $6 per gallon, with spring break travel well underway,’ said De Haan in a statement on Monday.
‘If the situation does worsen, with more oil being kept away from global markets, it’s not impossible that gas prices would still have to climb a considerable amount for Americans to start curbing their insatiable demand for gasoline,’ he added.
Meanwhile, a new poll shows that most Americans blame President Joe Biden for the recent increase in gas prices, a troubling figure for Democrats ahead of the midterm election and a sign the administration’s drive to push the blame on Vladimir Putin isn’t working.
Roughly 39% in a new Emerson College poll said Biden was to blame for the pain at the pump, while 21% blamed the gas sanctions on Russia, 18% blamed gas companies, and 9% blamed supply chain issues.
The results show that approximately the same number of voters blame President Biden and the Russian sanctions and oil companies combined.
Biden and his administration has continually blamed the coronavirus pandemic and Putin’s invasion of the Ukraine for the high inflation.
‘Let’s be absolutely clear about why prices are high now are high for two reasons. One was COVID – the way the global economy works,’ he said in remarks to the National League of Cities last Monday.
‘Now a second big reason for inflation is Vladimir Putin,’ he noted. ‘Make no mistake – the current spiking gas prices largely the fault of Vladimir Putin.