Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has touted efforts to ease federal regulations on oil production, noting the move was one of many efforts by President Joe Biden’s administration to address high oil prices. gasoline affecting drivers across the country.
But he acknowledged the federal government could still do more to combat high gasoline prices, saying the White House will continue to rely on Congress to pass a federal gasoline tax exemption.
Buttigieg was speaking at an event at Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids on Tuesday, joined by Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel and local officials to promote an airport improvement grant program in across the United States under the bipartisan Infrastructure Act signed in 2021. .
While gasoline prices have fallen on average in recent weeks in Michigan, they remain well above what they were at the same time last year. On Monday, the average price of a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline was $4.81 in Michigan — down 41 cents from a month ago, but still $1.63 higher than the same time last year, according to AAA.
Last month, President Joe Biden called for a three-month federal gas tax holiday, but the measure did not pass Congress. A federal gasoline tax break would save drivers 18.4 cents per gallon for regular gasoline and 24.4 cents per gallon for diesel fuel.
Despite the lack of progress toward a gasoline tax exemption, Buttigieg said the administration has taken several steps to relieve high gas prices, including releasing fuel from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, raising temporarily restrictions on ethanol sales and pushing for more drilling permits approved. in oil production.
Buttigieg said the administration would continue to pressure congressional Republicans to support a gas tax suspension, but some Democrats, including the senses. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Tom Carper of Delaware, criticized the idea of a gas tax suspension as it would reduce federal revenues used to pay for transportation and transit projects.
“We continue to believe that a gas tax exemption could help provide relief,” Buttigieg said. “While we are seeing some stabilization in gasoline prices, they are still – as everyone knows – far too high.”
Two House Democrats from Michigan — Representatives Elissa Slotkin, of Holly, and Dan Kildee, of Flint — have co-sponsored legislation to suspend the federal gasoline tax through the end of the year. This bill, tabled in February, is still languishing in committee, according to the Congress website.
Rising prices for fuel and other commodities due to inflation are expected to be at the heart of November’s midterm elections for voters, if they continue on their current trajectory. Some 40% of adults cited inflation as a priority for the government, according to an Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll in June.
Buttigieg acknowledged the political calculus of responding to economic concerns such as rising gas prices, pointing to federal investments in infrastructure as a measure to improve the lives of Americans.
“Sometimes these infrastructure conversations start to get very abstract,” he said. “We’re talking in terms of millions and billions (of dollars), we’re talking about years and decades, but what we’re really talking about is creating jobs – some of which are now hiring right now – in terms of construction and then provide assets that will serve people well for years to come or for the rest of their lives.
“It’s part of the bigger picture. We have to deal with inflation and that’s why it’s the president’s main economic priority.”
Gerald R. Ford International Airport, where the event took place, received a grant worth $8.6 million as part of the bipartisan infrastructure plan. Funding from the grant will go towards the installation of passenger boarding bridges, according to the Ministry of Transport